Public Health Capacity-Building for Applied Public Health in LMIC: A US Perspective
Karen R. Siegel, KMV Narayan
  • LAST REVIEWED: 30 January 2014
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 January 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756797-0074


Applied public health is the application of public health concepts, methodologies, and skills in order to improve health on the ground. In low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), where the health burden is particularly large, capacity for applied public health is critical. This capacity can come from high-income countries, with the resources—human, institutional, and financial—to address these health issues. However, it is equally important to develop a sustainable workforce in-country, to develop the capacity of a skilled cadre of public health professionals for sustainable health improvement efforts. The following bibliography provides a collection of some of these resources (textbooks, journals, websites, articles) that provide insight into the field of applied public health. Resources detailing the needs, challenges, and current issues in applied public health (capacity building, ethics, knowledge translation, understanding the population, advocacy and policy, leadership and partnerships) have also been provided. This bibliography discusses capacity building in LMICs from a US perspective; as such, it is beyond the scope of this article to provide a bibliography of other concepts and approaches on capacity building in LMICs by European countries (for example, UK, Scandinavian countries, and the Netherlands), as well as other countries such as Cuba, Japan, and China, which have made substantial contributions to capacity building in LMICs.

General Overviews

This section covers a broad array of articles that introduce the field of capacity building for applied public health, including capacity building for key health research to inform public health interventions, as well as important monitoring and evaluation aspects. Potter and Brough 2004 focuses on a core definition for the broad concept of capacity building, and creates a hierarchy of capacity-building needs. Baillie, et al. 2009 attempts to create a conceptual model for capacity building, using an example from public health nutrition. Howze, et al. 2009 focuses specifically on building health promotion capacity, drawing upon experience in the United States. The following four articles discuss capacity building from the perspective of research to inform applied interventions, covering issues of building capacity, the potential impact of such capacity, how to evaluate it, and strategies for success. Lansang and Dennis 2004 discusses the components necessary for developing capacity for national health research systems. Minja, et al. 2011 provides specific examples of capacity-building approaches and their impact. Bates, et al. 2006 and Trostle 1992 discuss evaluation of research capacity building initiatives. Finally, Redman-Maclaren, et al. 2012 draws from a specific example—a partnership at a hospital in the Solomon Islands—for building mutually beneficial capacity-building projects in the developing world.

  • Baillie, E., C. Bjarnholt, M. Gruber, and R. Hughes. 2009. A capacity-building conceptual framework for public health nutrition practice. Public Health Nutrition 12.8: 1031–1038.

    DOI: 10.1017/S1368980008003078

    Through a literature review, this article describes a conceptual framework to assist in the application of capacity-building principles to public health nutrition practice. The present paper defines, contextualizes, and outlines a framework for integrating and making explicit the importance of capacity building within public health nutrition practice at many levels.

  • Bates, I., A. Akoto, D. Ansong, et al. 2006. Evaluating health research capacity building: An evidence-based tool. PLoS Medicine 3.8: 1224–1229.

    DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.0030299

    This article describes the need for, and the development and use of, an evidence-based tool for determining whether the required infrastructure for capacity building in health research is present in any given setting, and for underpinning the design and evaluation of capacity-building programs in health research.

  • Howze, E. H., M. E. Auld, L. D. Woodhouse, J. Gershick, and W. C. Livingood. 2009. Building health promotion capacity in developing countries: Strategies from 60 years of experience in the United States. Health Education & Behavior 36.3: 464–475.

    DOI: 10.1177/1090198109333825

    In this article, the authors draw on the experience acquired by the health promotion profession in the United States to illustrate what might be done to build health promotion capacity in developing countries, focusing on accreditation and certification, research and publications, advocating for the profession, and advocating for public health policy.

  • Lansang, M. A., and R. Dennis. 2004. Building capacity in health research in the developing world. Bulletin of the World Health Organization 82.10: 764–770.

    Strong national health research systems are needed, particularly in developing countries. The authors review the positive features and weaknesses of various approaches to capacity building, as well as key elements of capacity building: leadership, career structure, critical mass, infrastructure, information access, and interfaces between research producers and users.

  • Minja, H., C. Nsanzabana, C. Maure, et al. 2011. Impact of health research capacity strengthening in low- and middle-income countries: The case of WHO/TDR programmes. PLoS Neglected Troical Diseases 5.10: e1351.

    Reports on the impact of individual and institutional capacity-strengthening programs conducted by the UNICEF/United Nations Development Program/World Bank/World Health Organization Special Program for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases and on the factors that influenced the outcome of its Research Capacity Strengthening activities. The study highlights the need for a more equitable process to improve the effectiveness of such activities, tailored to the country level.

  • Potter, C., and R. Brough. 2004. Systemic capacity building: A hierarchy of needs. Health Policy and Planning 19.5: 336–345.

    DOI: 10.1093/heapol/czh038

    Although capacity building is a common goal of development programs, satisfactory definitions do not exist. This paper argues that it is more important to address systemic capacity building and a four-tier hierarchy of capacity-building needs: (1) structures, systems and roles, (2) staff and facilities, (3) skills, and (4) tools. Experience from India is presented to illustrate how the concept of the capacity-building pyramid has been put to practical use.

  • Redman-Maclaren, M., D. J. Maclaren, H. Harrington, et al. 2012. Mutual research capacity strengthening: A qualitative study of two-way partnerships in public health research. Internation Journal of Equity and Health 11:79.

    DOI: 10.1186/1475-9276-11-79

    Reports on a study about research partnerships undertaken at Atoifi Adventist Hospital, Solomon Islands. Six major themes emerged: respectful relationships; increased knowledge and experience with the research process; participation at all stages in the research process; contribution to public health action; supporting and sustaining research opportunities; and managing challenges of capacity strengthening. Embedding mutuality throughout the research capacity-strengthening process may benefit North-South research capacity partnerships.

  • Trostle, J. 1992. Research capacity building in international health: Definitions, evaluations and strategies for success. Social Science and Medicine 35.11: 1321–1324.

    DOI: 10.1016/0277-9536(92)90035-O

    The paper contextualizes a special series of papers on the processes, rather than products, behind research capacity building in international health. It answers the following key questions. (1) What is research capacity building? (2) How should it be evaluated? (3) What is its ultimate goal? (4) How can research capacity be leveraged? (5) What are issues for future debate and consideration?

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