Foundation grant will help UNC study local-level public health services

March 01, 2012



The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has received approximately $200,000 from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to examine different types of local public health agencies in North Carolina.

The goal of the research, which began in December 2011 and will continue through May 2013, is to determine whether the way a local public health agency is organized affects public health service delivery or health outcomes in communities.

Coordinating the research are UNC School of Government faculty members Maureen Berner, professor of public administration and government, and Jill Moore and Aimee Wall, both associate professors of public law and government. Other members of the research team include the N.C. Division of Public Health and UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health’s N.C. Institute for Public Health.

Dorothy Cilenti, deputy director of the N.C. Institute for Public Health

Dorothy Cilenti, deputy director of the N.C. Institute for Public Health

“The Institute is excited to be a part of this effort as it aims to advance public health practice through partnerships with local public health leaders in collaborative research endeavors, said Dorothy Cilenti, DrPH. Cilenti is deputy director of the Institute and clinical assistant professor of maternal and child health at the public health school.

“North Carolina is an excellent setting for a natural experiment in public health service delivery,” Wall said. “We have many different types of local agencies across the state–single-county health departments, multi-county health departments, consolidated human services agencies, a public health authority and a public hospital authority. Many states are considering changes in their local delivery systems, and we have an excellent opportunity to learn about our system and share our state’s experiences with others.”

The UNC-led study is part of a series of research projects funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The 11 grants, totaling $2.7 million, will support two-year studies examining the impact of budget reductions and program cuts on population health, recruitment and retention of staff, health department structure and delivery of public health services.

“These are trying times in public health and any form of public service,” said F. Douglas Scutchfield, director of the National Coordinating Center at the University of Kentucky’s College of Public Health. The center will guide the National Network of Public Health Institutes in its facilitation of the foundation-funded series.

“Learning how best to cope with the changing environment at the state and local levels–in health departments generally and in specific programmatic areas such as maternal and child health–is the goal of these projects. The intent is to inform decision making in a rapidly evolving public health system.”

A new website, includes background information about the research project, the research team and the reasons for the study. It also will provide direct access to all reports and papers generated through the research as they become available and an opportunity for public comment about the research.


UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: Ramona DuBose, director of communications, (919) 966-7467 or