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About the Institute for Health Policy and Knowledge Translation

Purpose: Meeting the Challenge

Faced with serious risks to health, rising costs and an overburdened health care delivery system, Texans should be able to rely on their universities to provide new solutions to health problems and to inform the actions of their leaders on health matters.  Despite the state’s investment in premier academic health science centers, however, little attention has been given to getting the research findings produced by these institutions to those who often need them the most – policymakers and practitioners – in a form that they can use.

The challenge of translating technical findings into meaningful actions and alternatives, and then ensuring that these are widely available, is rarely met.  Academic researchers typically have neither the resources, nor the know-how to accomplish this effectively.  The primary mission of the Institute for Health Policy is to meet this challenge not only by translating research findings into practical advice for problem solving, but also, more generally, by fostering more productive exchanges between the worlds of academic research and of public health problems and policy concerns.

Rationale: A New Kind of Institute

Most Texas universities organize their research programs into centers and institutes as a way to marshal funds and focus highly-specialized expertise.  Since research priorities are set within the scientific community, findings and results tend to stay there as well, restricted to the readership of scholarly journals and conference attendees.  Just as specialized knowledge from academic studies seldom finds its way to outside audiences, problems and issues of concern to policymakers and to the health care community have a difficult time making their way into university-based research.

The Institute for Health Policy is organized differently than conventional research centers and institutes to ensure that pressing problems get in and relevant results flow out.  Rather than having its own cadre of research scientists and grant portfolio, it relies on alliances with other research centers throughout the campus for its scientific expertise and combines this with active partnerships among potential, external users.

The result is a flexible and adaptive mechanism for synthesizing and communicating findings, while linking them to external needs.  The central focus on health policy aligns the institute with efforts to solve public health problems and ensures that these remain a legitimate part of the academic health science center’s curriculum and research responsibilities.

The Institute’s Scope of Work

Bridging and Brokering – to contribute to improving the health of the public by developing creative ways to bridge the gap between scientific research, practitioners and policymakers and brokering opportunities for mutual support.

Analysis – to provide useful and reliable knowledge for health policy and problem solving based on both the translation of scholarly work and periodic assessments of health trends throughout the state.

Design and Development – to develop effective strategies for the design, communication and dissemination of viable policy solutions and to build the collaboration necessary to make those solutions more effective.

Education and Communication – to equip the next generation of health policy leaders with the skills necessary to use scholarly inquiry and to inform research questions with policy knowledge. 

More Efficient Use of Research Assets: “Bridge and Broker”

Having a centralized mechanism for translating research findings and disseminating them to potential users saves each research project the expense of creating its own capacity and learning how to make it work.  The Institute is uniquely designed to perform this “bridging” function.

Moreover, when policy issues arise or practical problems become known, instead of relying on haphazard contacts to draw the attention of researchers, the institute is ideally suited to “brokering” requests to those best able to meet them.  As noted, the bridging and brokering can work in both directions.  Research findings can also be brokered to potential users, and bridges can be built and maintained between health policy action and academic study.

IHP Summary

The Institute for Health Policy was established at The University of Texas School of Public Health to assist researchers throughout the UT Health Science Center in translating their technical findings into usable advice for program administrators and practical recommendations for health policymakers.

All six schools have research components, but some of their findings never reach the people they could help the most, explained Stephen H. Linder, Ph.D., associate director of the institute. "We want to get the results of our science out to communities of potential users, who can put this new knowledge to practical use," he said.

Once fully funded, the institute will also serve as a catalyst for policy-relevant research and will broker opportunities for faculty to apply their expertise to inform current policy debates.  In addition, specialized training and education in policy translation, design and development will be offered.