Bridging the Gap Between Research, Policy, and Practice: Lessons Learned from Academic-Public Partnerships in the CTSA Network
A primary barrier to translation of clinical research discoveries into care delivery and population health is the lack of sustainable infrastructure bringing researchers, policymakers, practitioners, and communities together to reduce silos in knowledge and action. As NIH’s mechanism to advance translational research, Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) awardees are uniquely positioned to bridge this gap. Delivering on this promise requires sustained collaboration and alignment between research institutions and public health and healthcare programs and services. We describe the collaboration of seven CTSA hubs with city, county, and state healthcare and public health organizations striving to realize this vision together. Partnership representatives convened monthly to identify key components, common and unique themes, and barriers in academic-public collaborations. All partnerships aligned the activities of the CTSA programs with the needs of the city/county/state partners, by sharing resources, responding to real-time policy questions and training needs, promoting best practices, and advancing community-engaged research, and dissemination and implementation science to narrow the knowledge-to-practice gap. Barriers included competing priorities, differing timelines, bureaucratic hurdles, and unstable funding. Academic-public health/health system partnerships represent a unique and underutilized model with potential to enhance community and population health.