1. Community service, that is, service to state and local health departments, community organizations, and individuals;

  2. Policy guidance, that is, helping to inform the public debate; and

  3. Service to the profession, for example, providing peer review for professional journals, serving as officers of professional associations, and serving on committees both within academia and for professional organizations.

As the center of expertise in research and teaching, academia is uniquely positioned to provide technical assistance and service, based on credible evidence from its research and the expertise of its faculty and students, for the development and implementation of programs and policies designed to assure and improve the health of the public. For example, state public health departments might use academically developed information about computer technology and health informatics to implement a statewide surveillance and information system. Community workers might use the results of research on nutrition and behavior modification to organize a campaign designed to address the current obesity epidemic. Health care delivery systems use information and expertise developed in academia to design and implement smoking cessation programs and to coordinate efforts aimed at preventing and managing diabetes. Businesses and employers rely on academia for consultation on the design, implementation, and analysis of therapeutic intervention studies. Policy makers might respond to information emerging from academia that points to the need for new legislative or regulatory programs, for example, the presence of toxic residues in children resulting from exposure to residential pesticide use. Finally, the media use evidence developed in academia to inform the public regarding the impact of global infections on health.


As communities try to address their health issues in a comprehensive manner, all of the stakeholders will need to sort out their roles and responsibilities, which will vary from community to community. These interdependent sectors must address issues of shared responsibility for various aspects of community health and individual accountability for their actions. They also must participate in the process of communitywide social change that is necessary for health improvement efforts and related performance monitoring to succeed (IOM, 1997b).

Fundamental to effective service is effective collaboration. Emerging emphasis is being placed on academia’s participation in collaborations, partnerships, and coalitions as mechanisms for improving the health of the public. Nelson and colleagues (1999) define collaboration as “a purposive

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement