The Right Side of the Public Health Ledger: How Revenue Dynamics Influence LHD Finances and Operations
Public health finance is still a relatively young field and, as such, many questions have yet to be asked—and answered. To date, few have examine how specific revenue streams—alone or in combination—shape local health departments’ (LHD) resources and capacity to accomplish their public health missions. Given ongoing policy conversations about financing for public health, it’s important for researchers to rigorously examine the and the potential costs and benefits associated with different revenue sources. Introduction Chapter: The central thesis for the body of work encapsulated by this dissertation is simple: where money comes from matters. This chapter critically examines published evidence and theory linking public health financing mechanisms and their interactions to LHD operations, outputs, and even outcomes. The chapter also introduces situates the specific research questions addressed in this dissertation within a broader conceptual framework. Paper 1: The first paper examines the relationship between revenue diversification and revenue volatility among Washington State LHDs. Using fixed effects linear regression models and revenue data reported during 1998-2014 by all LHDs operating in Washington State, the paper finds little evidence to suggest revenue diversification is significantly associated with revenue volatility. Paper 2: The second paper evaluates whether available revenue sources differentially effected the scope of programs provided by Washington State LHDs between 2000 and 2011. Using two measures of program scope and both linear and non-linear fixed effects panel regression models, the paper finds that only funding received from federal Medicaid was consistently and significantly associated with both measures of program scope. Paper 3: The third paper examines changes in total LHD expenditures in Washington State between 2006 and 2013 following introduction of a new state funding program to support core public health services and infrastructure. Using a pre-post design regression model to evaluate changes in LHD expenditures, the paper finds overall spending among LHDs significantly increased with receipt of the new state funds in the first years of the program. However, those increases were not sustained over the longer term Conclusion Chapter: The final chapter reviews findings from the three papers and discusses their implications for public health policy, practice, finance, and research.