Explaining the efficiency of local health departments in the U.S.: an exploratory analysis
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No study to date has analyzed the efficiency at which local health departments (LHDs) produce public health services. As a result, this study employs data envelopment analysis (DEA) to explore the relative technical efficiency of LHDs operating in the United States using 2005 data. The DEA indicates that the typical LHD operates with about 28% inefficiency although inefficiency runs as high as 69% for some LHDs. Multiple regression analysis reveals that more centralized and urban LHDs are less efficient at producing local public health services. The findings also suggest that efficiency is higher for LHDs that produce a greater variety of services internally and rely more on internal funding. However, because this is the first study of LHD efficiency and some shortcomings exist with the available data, we are reluctant to draw strong policy conclusions from the analysis.
KeywordsPublic health Efficiency Data envelopment analysis
We thank Carolyn Leep of the National Association of County and City Health Officers for helping us secure the necessary data. Data for this study were obtained from the 2005 National Profile of Local Public Health Agencies, a project supported through a cooperative agreement between the National Association of County and City Health Officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We also thank the anonymous referees of this journal for their helpful comments and suggestions for improving the paper.
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