Since HHS is the major funder of many of the activities and programs public health systems research evaluates, results of these studies would provide actionable insights regarding program design, funding, and implementation.
Some new data collection efforts may be necessary to fill holes, but the committee is wary of large new efforts and more supportive of greater coordination among existing data resources, establishing interoperability among them, and eliminating duplicative resources or ones that are no longer useful.
Current data collection approaches used in the department are too infrequent, too late, and insufficiently detailed for these management purposes; further, they document specific program activities rather than cross-departmental, coordinated achievement of broader goals. (Insofar as these specific program data remain useful to the program managers, they could continue to be collected. However, over time managers may find some of these efforts are unnecessary to assessing the impact of their work and their cross-agency collaborations.)
The secretary should provide strong leadership to make sure the information system becomes a meaningful part of the department’s operations, by maintaining oversight of the system as it is developed and implemented, and by ensuring that key officials rely on it when making programmatic decisions. This will reinforce to all HHS staff the importance of program performance.
To enable greater accountability, the secretary should oversee development and implementation of a department-wide data, evaluation, and information system. The system should be based on a broad analytic framework designed to aid in managing departmental operations, learning from program experience, evaluating the costs and impact of programs, and determining whether they provide sufficient value for the investment of public funds.