Academic Health Department Consortium (AHD)

Learn about the Academic Health Department Consortium at MDPH

Academic Health Department  

An academic health department (AHD) partnership is formed by the formal affiliation of a health department and an academic institution. AHD partnerships can enhance public health education and training, research, and service and may offer a variety of benefits, both for the organizations involved and for the community as a whole. Academic Health Department partnerships are cooperative agreements either formal or informal with academic institutions to build public health workforce capacity , to improve health outcomes of populations, as well as to better coordinate our partnerships with colleges and universities. At DPH academic partnerships have existed for decades and today with even more intentionally. 

Academic Health Department Consortium (AHD) 

Learn about the Academic Health Department Consortium at MDPH 

Table of Contents

About Academic Health Department

Academic Partnerships are cooperative agreements with academic institutions to build public health workforce capacity, to improve health outcomes of populations, as well as to better coordinate our partnerships with colleges and universities. At DPH academic partnerships have existed for decades.  The goals of the Academic Health Department are to: 

  • Promote public health as a profession 

  • Create meaningful student experiences 

  • Enhance the knowledge and capabilities of existing DPH staff 

  • Optimize public health research and practice 

About the Academic Health Department Consortium

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) formed an Academic Health Department Consortium with eight local schools and programs of public health with the common goal of bridging the gap between practice-based public health and public health academia in April 2019.  Academic health departments are most often established to foster a more practice-oriented education for students of public health, while simultaneously creating collaborative opportunities for faculty and staff through trainings, to develop the current and future public health workforce, build the evidence base for public health including joint-research projects, better deliver the Essential Public Health Services, and interdepartmental work.[i],[ii],[iii],[iv]

Academic Health Department Mission Statement

MDPH and the eight academic partners agreed on a mission statement:

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the participating schools and programs of public health will collaborate to strengthen the relationships between practice and academia through workforce development, professional support, field placement, and interorganizational systems communication.

  1. Boston University School of Public Health 

  1. Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health 

  1. Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences 

  1. Northeastern University 

  1. Simmons University 

  1. Tufts University 

  1. University of Massachusetts, Amherst 

  1. University of Massachusetts, Lowell 

Academic Health Department Principles 

Group Norms/Principles were established over a period of time by the Academic Public Health Corps Research and Evaluation Work Group.  The group pulled in the principles from the Academic Public Health Corps (APHC), Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR) and from conversations in both small and large groups with the research and evaluation work group members. The overarching principle states: Shared responsibility, shared opportunity, and shared visibility. These group norms should be periodically reviewed and evaluated as a guiding mechanism to ensure the Academic Health Department and academic partners upholds and updated as needed. The Principles include Participation, Integrity/Professionalism, Racial Equity. Communications, and Collaboration. 

Academic Public Health Corps 

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Academic Public Health Corps (APHC) was established by the Massachusetts Academic Health Department Consortium as a service program focused on supporting the needs of local boards of health (LBOH) throughout the state of Massachusetts. The APHC is a collaboration between the Massachusetts Public Health Department, the Massachusetts Health Officers Association, and 13 Massachusetts schools and programs of public health. 

For more information, please go to Academic Public Health Corps.

Since April 2020, the APHC has placed hundreds of their Corps Members with local boards of health throughout Massachusetts. Academic Public Health Corps Members are deployed to communities across Massachusetts to meet the emergent local public health needs identified by the local boards of health, which have a history of being underfunded and short staffed. The APHC plays an important role in supporting their vital work while also giving students real world experience and professional development opportunities. Past projects have included contact tracing and case investigation, data analysis, health equity support and research, community outreach, health communications and promotion, graphic design and social media management, policy research, vaccine clinic support, strategic planning, and more. 

Academic Public Health Corps Academic Partners

Academic Public Health Corps Example Projects/Services

The Academic Public Health Corps (APHC) is a program of the Massachusetts Academic Health Department Consortium. It is managed by the Massachusetts Health Officers Association (MHOA) and funded by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. APHC corps members currently provide the following services: 

Health communication (Print, Signage, Social media, Websites)

  • Social media messaging development (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter)
  • Topic- and population-specific messaging and infographics
  • Signage to communicate health regulations
  • Graphic design and web development support
  • Written translations of health communications materials (flyers, infographics)

Data analysis & presentation

  • Data Analysis and visualization to highlight disparities and offer insight into public health problems in communities
  • Geographic Information System (GIS) Mapping
  • Dataset manipulation
  • Visualized data analysis reports
  • Data analysis consultation

Health equity support

  • Highlighting and supporting public health initiatives that promote health equity and service minority or underrepresented communities
  • Collaborating with community and faith-based organizations
  • Creating tailored infographics and informative social media content
  • Community and stakeholder analysis and engagement
  • Supporting health equity projects and research

Research and administrative support

  • Meeting minutes
  • Digital file organization
  • Policy guidance
  • Planning and research

If you would like to request assistance from the APHC to support your local board of health, please fill out the APHC Assistance Request intake form.

A member of the APHC leadership team will contact you within 2-3 days to schedule an introductory virtual meeting, gather information on your request, and organize Corps members to respond to your needs. 

Institutional Review Board (IRB)

All requests for access to MDPH confidential information for research must have approval from the Commissioner of Public Health in accordance with M.G.L. c. 111, §24A. This protects the confidentiality of all information collected or created as part of an approved research study and imposes restrictions on use and disclosure of research data. All research involving human subjects conducted by MDPH employees, or agents working on its behalf, must be reviewed by the Department Institutional Review Board (IRB)

Office of Oral Health Collaboration

The Office of Oral Health (OOH) collaborates with The Boston University School of Dental Medicine (BUSDM) and Tufts University School of Dental Medicine. This collaboration focuses on driving the OOH goal areas of surveillance, prevention, workforce, access, and integration while bolstering BUSDM’s Global & Population Health program. BUSDM will provide technical support to the OOH in the form of faculty expert feedback, student projects, and statewide oral health capacity building. Topics may include, but not limited to: teledentistry, portable/mobile care, vaccines, in-office/point of care testing, critical workforce, and substance use disorders. 

Public Health Data (PHD) Warehouse

PHD is a unique surveillance and research tool that provides access to timely, linked, multi-year data to enable analyses of health priorities and trends, such as the current opioid epidemic and persistent inequities in maternal and child health. More information is available on Public Health Data Warehouse (PHD).

Contact   for Academic Health Department Consortium (AHD)

i. Conte, C., Chang, C.S., Malcolm, J., Russo, P.G. (2006) Academic Health Departments: From Theory to Practice. Journal of Public Health Management and Practice, 12 (1) 6-14, 2006. 00124784-200601000-00003

ii. Erwin PC, Barlow P, Brownson RC, Amos K, Keck CW. Characteristics of Academic Health Departments: Initial Findings From a Cross-Sectional Survey. J Public Health Manag Pract. 2016;22(2):190-3.

iii. Council on Linkages Between Academia and Public Health Practices (2011) Academic Health Departments: Core Concepts. Public Health Foundation.

iv. Erwin, P. C., Harris, J., Wong, R., Plepys, C. M., & Brownson, R. C. (2016). The Academic Health Department: Academic–Practice Partnerships Among Accredited U.S. Schools and Programs of Public Health, 2015. Public Health Reports, 131(4), 630–636.

Date published: May 13, 2019
Last updated: May 15, 2023

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