An innovative approach to public health research: the case of a new center in Mexico.

J. Frenk, J. L. Bobadilla, J. Sepúlveda, J. Rosenthal, E. Ruelas, M. A. González-Block, J. Urrusti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


This paper presents the conceptual and organizational elements that have guided the development of the Center for Public Health Research (CPHR) in Mexico. The CPHR was established in August 1984, in the midst of the most profound health care reform in Mexico in the last 40 years. The reform has included, among other measures, a Constitutional amendment recognizing the social right to health care, an energetic effort to decentralize the system so that each state will run its own services, an ambitious drive to extend primary health care coverage to all the population, and a strong promotion of research as the basis for strategic planning and for the development of standards of care. The creation of the CPHR is a response to the need for a firm base of epidemiologic and health systems research in Mexico. This need arises from the increasing complexity of the country's organizational arrangements for health care. In addition, the patterns of morbidity and mortality are also becoming more intricate, as Mexico is experiencing an epidemiologic transition whereby chronic diseases, mental ailments, and accidents are on the rise even as the incidence of infectious diseases and malnutrition continues to be high. As a unit of the Ministry of Health, the CPHR must strike a balance between relevance to decision making and excellence in the strict adherence to the norms of scientific research. To do so, it has developed a conceptual framework based on a tridimensional matrix. The dimensions of the matrix include substantive areas (i.e., the phenomena to be researched), knowledge areas (i.e., the disciplines pertinent to public health), and methodological areas (i.e., the methods to be applied in each project). The intersection of these dimensions produces different configurations of "research modules" that can be adapted to changing priorities. Current priorities of the CPHR include epidemiologic studies of the emerging conditions in the transition, migration and health, child survival, social organization and primary health care, health systems management, quality of care, and the development of information systems and quantitative models for public health research. Research projects are undertaken in a matrix type of organization in which academic departments are structured according to problems rather than disciplines. The analysis of Mexico's Center for Public Health Research may contribute to similar endeavors in other countries and also to the wider development of comparative studies on research organizations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)467-481
Number of pages15
JournalThe Journal of health administration education
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1986
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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