innovative ways to prevent disease and promote health, focus on high-priority public health issues, and conduct research and demonstration activities that result in improved public health practice. The PRCs are intended to serve as bridges between science and practice, and from academia to state and local health departments, health care providers and provider organizations, and community organizations, as well as with CDC. Evaluation research is embedded in many of the PRC interventions, and the centers also train public health professionals in applied prevention research.
PL 98-551 authorized the Secretary of Health and Human Services to provide annual funding at the level of $1 million per center for a total of 3 centers in 1985, 8 centers in 1986, and 13 centers in 1987. The actual annual appropriations from Congress, however, have fallen short of these authorization levels. Since the program was established, Congress has expanded the core PRC program from a total budget of $1.5 million to a total budget of approximately $7 million in fiscal year 1995. In 1993, CDC began providing supplementary funds to the PRCs through a Special Interest Project (SIP) funding mechanism as a way to increase the levels of research activity within the PRCs. The PRCs received a total of $9.5 million through SIP funding in 1995.
In 1995, CDC asked the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to review the PRC program to examine the extent to which the program is providing the public health community with workable strategies to address major public health problems in disease prevention and health promotion. IOM established a 10-member committee to evaluate the PRC program. CDC asked the committee to evaluate (1) the overall quality and appropriateness of the health promotion and disease prevention research and demonstration projects being carried out at the PRCs and (2) CDC's management and oversight of the PRC program. The committee has not assessed the quality of the health promotion and disease prevention research and demonstration projects of individual PRCs. No comprehensive evaluation of the individual PRCs has ever been done. Rather, the focus is on CDC's plans, actions, evaluation and support of the overall PRC program.
The committee's review and discussions with some of those associated with the development of the PRC program indicate that there are at least three ways