About Us

Challenge: A Need for Information Systems

To create conditions that support equitably healthy communities, local and state health departments need easy access to relevant, high-quality data that highlight effective activities and services, and identify gaps. This need was documented in the Institute of Medicine 2010 report For the Public’s Health: The Role of Measurement in Action and Accountability and becomes more urgent every year. With access to shared, standardized data, health departments can more easily examine their impact on their jurisdictions and compare their activities and services with those of similar jurisdictions to build evidence for what works.

The more than 2,800 local health departments in the United States define and measure their work differently. Consequently, public health practitioners, researchers, communities, and policymakers across states lack detailed, consistent, and easily comparable local-level data and information that would help shape funding decisions, support accreditation efforts, and drive systems-level change.

Having data is essential for providing foundational public health services and making effective decisions to proactively detect, prevent, prepare for, and respond to problems. Public health systems are falling behind in a world that is rapidly developing streamlined, collaborative ways to use large-scale data easily and effectively. It’s time to catch up.

Vision

PHAST envisions informed system-level decision making that creates equitably healthy communities.

Beliefs and Commitment

We believe the most effective responses to population health challenges and opportunities come from and are relevant to the communities affected.

We believe optimal population health and equitable public health services can best be achieved with accurate information.

We believe having easy access to high-quality, standardized, comparable data in a streamlined and visual format is essential and foundational for shaping local, state, and national decisions.

We are committed to sharing information collaboratively to make work more effective. Together, our shared data—presented in a clear and engaging way—is a resource that far exceeds the sum of its parts.

What PHAST is doing

PHAST makes meaningful data and evidence accessible to practice and policy leaders for decision making. To help public health systems offer optimal services, PHAST asks three questions:

  • What works?
  • For what populations?
  • Under what conditions?

Through these questions, PHAST is compiling the data and building the evidence that effective public health systems need to create conditions that foster healthy communities. Public health systems that use standardized measures can not only assess their own work, but also compare what they are doing with peer systems and learn from each other’s data.

By using a shared dashboard to input standardized measures of their activities and services, local and state health departments participating in PHAST get access to a resulting wealth of data and information from across health departments and regions, presented in a streamlined and visual format. With the PHAST dashboard, departments measure and compare public health activities and services in three core areas:

  • Chronic disease prevention
  • Communicable disease control
  • Environmental health protection

PHAST is working through and with public health system partners to examine how public health service availability, volume/intensity, and quality vary over time and space to have an impact on related health outcomes. As a tool shaped by public health practitioners to meet the needs of health departments, PHAST will widely influence local practice and policy.

Decreased funding for public health has generated intense interest in an accurate accounting of costs. A profoundly misaligned financing system for public health service delivery requires a uniform chart of accounts (COA) in order to make comparisons across space and time. PHAST is also working with state and local public health leaders to draft a uniform COA that will support system improvements by showing relationships between investments and public health outcomes.

Check out PHAST’s research and publications to learn more.

PHAST Users

  • State and local health department officials
  • Public health systems researchers
  • Community and other non-governmental stakeholders
  • Policymakers

PHAST enables users to

  • Assess performance
  • Evaluate efficiencies
  • Monitor and plan for how services are distributed relative to local need
  • Understand the value of health promotion and prevention activities

Partnerships and Team

PHAST is a multi-state collaboration of researchers and practice partners examining the outcomes associated with variation and change in public health financing, infrastructure, and service delivery at the local level.

At the University of Washington, PHAST works closely with the Northwest Center for Public Health Practice, CoMotion, Evans School of Public Policy and Governance, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, and the Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology. National partners include the Public Health National Center for Innovations at the Public Health Accreditation Board, County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, and the National Association of County and City Health Officials.

The PHAST Team brings together researchers with expertise in public health systems, nursing, finance, informatics, and data visualization.

Funding Support

Initially funded through the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Nurse Faculty Scholars Program, PHAST has received additional support from RWJF to develop a system to make standardized local public health measures available to support evidence-based practice.