Objectives: Evidence-based decision making (EBDM) capacity in local public health departments is foundational to meeting both organizational and individual competencies and fulfilling expanded roles. In addition to on-the-job training, organizational supports are needed to prepare staff; yet, less is known in this area. This qualitative study explores supportive management practices instituted as part of a training and technical assistance intervention.
Design: This qualitative study used a semistructured interview guide to elicit participants’ descriptions and perceptions via key informant interviews. Verbatim transcripts were coded and thematic analyses were conducted.
Setting: Local public health departments in a US Midwestern state participated in the project.
Participants: Seventeen middle managers and staff from 4 local health departments participated in remote, audio-recorded interviews.
Intervention: Following delivery of a 3½-day in-person training, the study team met with health department leadership teams for department selection of supportive agency policies and procedures to revise or newly create. Periodic remote meetings included collaborative problem-solving, sharing of informational resources, and encouragement.
Main outcome measures: Included management practices instituted to support EBDM and impact on day-to-day work as described by the interview participants.
Results: Leadership and middle management practices deemed most helpful included dedicating staff; creating specific guidelines; setting expectations; and providing trainings, resources, and guidance. Health departments with a preexisting supportive organizational culture and climate were able to move more quickly and fully to integrate supportive management practices. Workforce development included creation of locally tailored overviews for all staff members and onboarding of new staff. Staff wanted additional hands-on skill-building trainings. Several worked with partners to incorporate evidence-based processes into community health improvement plans.
Conclusions: Ongoing on-the-job experiential learning is needed to integrate EBDM principles into day-to-day public health practice. Management practices established by leadership teams and middle managers can create supportive work environments for EBDM integration.