National Coordinating Center for PHSSR

Volume 2, Issue 4 - Thursday, February 07, 2013

NCC For PHSSR   |  Update

PHSSR Matters: Social Network Analysis

Jacqueline MerrillLocal health department executives tend to talk to one another in small groups of twos and threes, mainly within state boundaries. That’s an important tool for sharing information – but the public health system could benefit from a larger communication network, according to social network analysis research by Jacqueline Merrill, RN, MPH, DNSc, of the Columbia University School of Nursing.

In an article published recently in Frontiers in Public Health Services and Systems Research and the Journal of Public Health Management Practice, Merrill and her colleagues investigated how top executives in local health departments communicate about substantive issues.

The researchers’ analysis showed an average health official at the local level has only a few direct ties to peers, and a small effective network within his or her local area. A broader network could do more for the greater good, Merrill argues, because the more information each health official knows about the activities of his/her public health peers, the more opportunities exist for best practices to spread throughout the system.


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