Mission & History
The Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies (IHPS) contributes to the solution of complex and challenging health policy problems through leadership in research, training, technical assistance, and public service. Our special competence lies in translating research across disciplines and fields to inform health policy. We undertake this work with a commitment to improve health and health care within local, state, national, and international communities and with a focus on improving the health of vulnerable populations.
IHPS is the first interdisciplinary health policy research group to be part of a major health sciences campus. Established in 1972 as the Health Policy Program by Philip R. Lee, MD, with a small group of faculty members whose backgrounds were in medicine, pharmacology, ethics, and law, the Program grew rapidly. In 1981, the Board of Regents of the University of California established the Institute for Health Policy Studies as an organized research unit within the School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).
The Institute’s Directors have been: Philip R. Lee (1972-1993); Harold Luft, PhD (1993-2008); Claire Brindis, DrPH (2008 – 2020); Joanne Spetz, PhD (2020 – present).
IHPS collaborates closely with UCSF schools and departments, other universities, the private sector, government, and community-based organizations to address issues critical to the health of the public. Our faculty work in and often across three primary areas: Healthcare Systems, Population Health and Determinants, and Clinical Practice.
Healthcare System faculty examines outcomes, quality, and measurement of healthcare delivery systems with research and practice that spans from the individual clinic to hospital and healthcare systems. They also play a leadership role in translating research findings into policy, program, and healthcare delivery practices. IHPS faculty have informed the development of value-based purchasing approaches and have undertaken cost and cost-effectiveness studies across a wide domain of conditions and systems both domestically and internationally. Healthcare system faculty also conducts research on the healthcare workforce with a particular focus on nursing and primary care providers. The Institute is particularly interested in ensuring that our healthcare system delivers appropriate care to at-risk populations including children and the elderly.
Population Health and Determinants faculty focus on disparities in health and healthcare. Faculty examine how to ensure access to primary care for low-income populations in California and nationwide. For example, Institute faculty and staff work on shaping state and national policies related to reproductive health access. IHPS faculty use longitudinal data to examine chronic disease and its impact on vulnerable patients. Vulnerable populations are also a key focus of longstanding IHPS research and translational efforts related to substance use policy and tobacco control. Institute faculty have examined the impact of the environment on reproductive health outcomes and child health. Additionally, faculty study disasters – both natural and human-created – with a particular focus on health and the environment.
IHPS’ vibrant community of scholars from many disciplines, work effectively together to address critical health and health policy issues.
In Clinical Practice, IHPS has long been a leader in research and policy translation related to technology evaluation, drugs, and pharmaceuticals. The Institute boasts a path-breaking program on the production of research and medical evidence that touches on issues related to industry sponsorship, conflict of interest, and research integrity. In award-winning work, Institute faculty have developed and put into practice decision-making tools that facilitate the delivery of patient-centered care. IHPS is also at the forefront of understanding how genetic technologies and personalized medicine will shape and re-shape clinical practice of the future.
In all these areas, IHPS recognizes that policy problems are complex and are most effectively addressed by using the perspectives and tools of multiple disciplines and fields. However, different disciplines and fields use different “languages,” conceptual frameworks, methods, and standards of evidence. It is often difficult to bring lessons from one field into another and even more challenging to synthesize and translate research findings so that they can help inform decisions of policymakers, program managers, clinicians, and others concerned with health policy issues.
Over a period of 50 years, IHPS has demonstrated success in overcoming these disciplinary barriers to promote rigorous research translation into policy and practice. IHPS’ vibrant community of scholars from many disciplines, work effectively together to address critical health and health policy issues. Our unique contribution is our ability to apply a multi-disciplinary perspective in collaboration with others within and outside the Institute and the University. From its founding, IHPS has been a community where research from many disciplines is conducted, synthesized, and translated so that it can be applied to real-world policy arenas, program areas, and practice settings.