Direct Observation Methods in Local Public Health Settings: Foodborne Outbreak Practices in Ohio

Year: 2011
Funding: Research Acceleration & Capacity Expansion Supplement (RACE)
Status: Completed

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This methodological supplement builds on an ongoing research project by the Ohio PBRN that uses direct observation methods to assess practice variation in food-borne outbreak (FBO) investigation and response among local health departments in Ohio. Three methodological enhancements are implemented. First, the supplement expands the research focus by adding measures of consumer perceptions of agency actions in prevention, investigation and management of FBO, offering additional perspectives on the validity of direct observation measures. Second, the study links direct observation data with several additional secondary data sources including the Ohio Annual Financial Report (AFR), the Ohio Disease Reporting System (ODRS), census data, restaurant and bar revenues, and County Health Rankings in order to analyze factors that explain variation in observed FBO practices. GIS mapping is used to investigate and illustrate geographic variation in practices, resources and services. Third, the study investigates the project features that benefit or challenge the direct observation research process, using formal interviewing and debriefing methods with student observers and public health practice observees. Findings from this study will suggest approaches for expanding the use of direct observation methods in PBRNs and the larger field of public health research.


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Scott Frank, M.D., M.S.