Community Driven Health Research

Assessment : Planning : Design : Evaluation


Public Health Research Institute (PHRI) is a federally designated 501 c 3 nonprofit corporation that plans, implements, and assesses the effectiveness of innovations in health and related services at system and community levels. 

PHRI uses its research, evaluation and planning skills to address health and equity issues of at-risk and/or high-need  populations by identifying deficiencies in health and health related programs, servcies and policies. 

PHRI works with communities, providers, employers and public health stakeholders to assess population health needs, design and then evaluate programs and services to target these deficiencies and inequities.  PHRI conducts both comprehensive and single focus population assessments with science-based methodologies it initially developed in the early 1990's. This combined with rational planning methods and a collaborative process with communities permit the development of sustainable, evidence-based and community-driven innovations aimed at improving the health of local populations.


PHRI’s Multidisciplinary Core Team of Experts...

Trained in epidemiology, medicine, behavioral health, health services research, health economics, biostatistics, health disparities, health literacy, and information technology utilizes a targeted community-specific approach to:

  • Design and conduct high-quality research on the health status and health service needs of populations with particular attention to low resource and rural communities;
  • Create, assess, and apply measures of health that lead to better understanding of the health status and service needs of populations and communities;
  • Design and utilize health information technologies to convey health findings in easy to navigate formats in print and on the Internet; and
  • Design and conduct community-based studies and programs aimed at expanding access to prevention, detection, promotion, and management of chronic health conditions.

PHRI was incorporated in 1991 in the state of Maine and has the status of a federal non-profit [501(c)(3)] corporation. It is governed by a voluntary Board of Directors that provides policy direction and exercises fiscal management and quality control over all activities.  Board meetings are held quarterly, and additional special meetings are convened as needed.

Examples of PHRI Projects

PHRI Current projects

  • People of Color Project:  PHRI is working with the Wabanaki Public Health (Maine’s Tribal Public Health District) as the fiscal sponsor of a People of Color Fund grant from the Maine Community Foundation. We are currently in year 02 of the project. The project supports youth from all five of Maine’s Tribal communities to attend the annual Maine Youth Action Network conference in Bangor, giving them an opportunity to learn leadership skills and network with other Tribal youth.  In addition, the grant support efforts to bring Tribal youth together through youth councils. These councils offer leadership skills that can make a difference in tribal community health programs and policies.
  • Maine Cancer Foundation Tobacco Prevention Grant:  PHRI is working with the Wabanaki Public Health (WPH) (Maine’s Tribal Public Health District) as the fiscal sponsor of a Maine Cancer Foundation Grant. The grant is supporting a multimedia campaign to prevent commercial tobacco use. WPH is providing culturally appropriate education aimed at preventing/reducing tobacco use emphasizing that tobacco is sacred and should not be used for commercial purposes.  The multimedia campaign uses Native culturally appropriate messages on the radio, in movie theaters, and other public places to inform Tribal youth about the sacredness of tobacco in their culture as an approach to reduce its use. 
  • Native Connections: PHRI is working with Wabanaki Health and Wellness to start a Native Connections grant program.  Native Connection is a 5-year national Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) grant program that works with Tribal communities across the nation on suicide prevention activities. PHRI is conducting the evaluation of the project that has as it goals:
  1. increasing community capacity to provide substance use, mental health, and youth suicide prevention services;
  2. Improving substance use, mental health, and youth suicide data across systems;
  3. Increasing access to appropriate peer and/or referral services for Tribal youth who are substance user or have contemplated attempted suicide; and,
  4. Preventing and improving Tribal youth substance use, mental health and suicide prevention services through community partnerships and collaborations that support youth.
  • New Sewall Foundation Award: PHRI was recently awarded a grant of $51,000 to assist Wabanaki Public Health (WPH) increase it public health infrastructure and programming. WPH is one of nine public health districts recognized by the State of Maine. WPH provides public health services to all Wabanaki tribal members addressing the intergenerational disparities by using culturally appropriate and trauma-informed health promotion and disease prevention activities. They achieve health and healing through:
    • Reflecting the diversity of those we serve
    • Sustained intertribal partnerships
    • Strengthened public health infrastructure
    • Collaboration with federal, state, and local partners
    • Recognizing that our culture is our resilience

Over the past two years, the public health system in Maine has seen the dissolution of the Healthy Maine Partnerships and the rise of the Maine Prevention Services. Maine Prevention Services provides funding to all public health districts in Maine for Substance Use Prevention, Tobacco Prevention, Youth Engagement, and Obesity Prevention activities. Wabanaki Public Health works through the Penobscot Nation Health Department (PNHD) as a fiscal sponsor for the Maine Prevention Services. However, to diversify funding sources and to grow as an entity, WPH partners with the Public Health Research Institute (PHRI) on this and several other projects. This partnership has increased WPH’s capacity for community-based research and evaluation. 

  • Downeast Maine Health Consortium (the Consortium) HRSA Outreach Grant Evaluation: The Consortium is a partnership of multiple health care organizations in Hancock and Hancock counties, Maine. It is managed by Healthy Acadia in collaboration with the Downeast Public Health Council, the University of New England and PHRI. The Consortium just received a new three year grant from the USDHHS Heath Resource Services Administration to implement and expand evidence-based health improvement programs throughout Downeast Maine to help people prevent the onset of diabetes, manage chronic diseases and chronic pain, and lead healthier lives. These programs and follow-on of prior grant projects that got these programs underway. PHRI recently signed a contract to evaluate this project and participate in the leadership of the project. Through Outreach funding, the Consortium will expand and/or implement three evidence-based programs: 1) The CDC’s Diabetes Prevention Group Lifestyle Balance Program, 2) The Stanford Chronic Disease Self-Management Program, and 3) The Stanford Chronic Pain Self-Management Program. The goals of the project are to reduce the prevalence and economic burden of diabetes mellitus, other chronic diseases and chronic pain, and to improve the health and quality of life for all people who have, or are at risk for, these conditions. Ron Deprez (lead); Andrew Pritchard (evaluator)
  • Tribal Public Health District Assessment and Planning Study: In this project PHRI will conduct a gap analysis and develop plans of needed services for Tribal Public Health District. There are two deliverables for this project:
    1. Operational Review - Review staff roles and responsibilities to develop comprehensive staff work plan and recommendations to develop strategic plans and goals.
    2.  Evaluation Review - Review contractual performance measures and scope of services to develop an evaluation plan. Provide input and assistance with the Tribal Youth Health Assessment.

The Penobscot Nation/Wabanaki Public Health District is the project sponsor.  Rebecca Petrie (lead); Ron Deprez

  • Municipal Solid Waste Policy Study: PHRI is currently conducting a policy options study for effective and improved solid waste management and recycling in Maine. According to PHRI President, Dr. Ron Deprez, “Municipal solid waste (MSW) is a huge issue for towns across the state. And while there are many ways to address this issue that are both cost effective and promote recycling, municipalities should understand all of the costs and benefits of whatever policies they implement.” Trash disposal is a public service that municipalities are required to provide by law to residents and businesses for health and safety reasons similar to police and fire services As a public health research firm, PHRI believes that programs to reduce MSW need to be equitable and fair to both residents and businesses. The study will address MSW from the perspectives of public health and safety, equity and the physical environment. No other studies focus on the public health and equity perspectives in MSW. Dr. Luisa Deprez (lead); Ron Deprez, William Stason (assist).

  • Alaska Community Programs for Population Health Improvement: PHRI is currently working with community organizations and the governments located in the Kenai Peninsula Borough to establish a public health network that will develop and sponsor population health prevention programs. The network, the Kenai Peninsula Network for Health and Wellness (KPN), led by the Kenai Alive! along with several other community based organizations including the local hospital and school district.  The mission of KPN is to improve the health status of the community population building on strengths, reinforcing resiliency, promoting understanding and respect across cultures through collaboration, education and advocacy.  To date KPN has been formally organized and has received its first grant from the Alaska Community Foundation. Ron Deprez (lead)


PHRI recently completed projects

  • Washington County Network (Washington County, Me) health needs planning study: WCN is  a grassroots network established in 2012 and comprised of over 20 agencies and community stakeholders. WCN  is working to “improve the health and welfare of Washington County residents” by utilizing a “community-based participatory process” that establishes a plan to inform the network about the social, economic and health issues that impact the health of vulnerable and low income populations in this geographic area. The ultimate goal is to raise awareness to the lack of health equity for people in Washington County and to promote change on a system-wide level by conferring and collaborating with community members and partners. PHRI is a founding partner and financial sponsor of WCN. PHRI has sponsored two grants, one from the Health Resource Services Administration (HRSA) and one through the Maine Health Access Foundation (MeHAF). In these grants PHRI participates in a leadership role and conducts an evaluation of the grant project for the funding organization. Ron Deprez, lead  COMPLETED 6/30/15
  • American Psychological Association (APA) psychiatrist and psychologist density study: PHRI is conducting an assessment of behavioral health workforce adequacy across the US; a state and substate assessment of access to psychiatry and psychologist services in the US. PHRI is producing workforce density maps for each state, broken out by state, congressional district and behavioral health service area. Gary Cattabriga, Ron Deprez  COMPLETED 6/30/15
  • Lung Cancer Profiles in the Northeast: PHRI is completing a state by state assessment of lung cancer in the Northeast Region for the American Lung Association of New England. PHRI has prepared and now will present ALANE with a report on lung cancer incidence, staging, morbidity and mortality rates across the Northeast Region (New England plus New York) and the US. The specific scope of work is to:
    1. Obtain/review current indicators and data (back 10+ years if possible) on lung cancer by gender and age groupings in Maine, across the region and the US.
    2. Rank and categorize all valid indicators in a table. Indicators may include risk factors, disease incidence and disability rates, survival status and factors in survival, known disparities, service structure, and cost/expenditures.
    3. Produce tables and a brief report.

Ron Deprez, lead COMPLETED 6/30/15

For a copy of this report please download: PHRI ALA_LungCancerReport 2015

  • Access to Quality Care for Uninsured Individuals-Evaluation: Washington County based CareNet is a grass roots responsive community owned organization created to decrease disparity issues in Washington County by creating an organizational safety net to ensure that community members become insured and gain access to a responsive system of care. The Maine Health Access Foundation (MeHAF) sponsored this initiative that identifies appropriate strategies for Washington County that provide high quality services for those that remain uninsured after the implementation of the ACA. The project created a sustainable and coordinated community level approach for providing health care services to low income, uninsured community members. Underlying all its endeavors is a commitment to recognize and promote the local elements that are working well, collaboratively creating and improving options and creating opportunities for community members that increase health and wellness through its effective and supportive work. PHRI provided leadership as a member of the WNC, conducted an assessment of local data sources and evaluated the implementation of the project for MeHAF.  Ron Deprez. Lead  COMPLETED 8/2015
  • COPD Re-admissions Study: PHRI recently conducted a study sponsored by the American Lung Association of New England (ALANE) to analyze hospital re-admissions for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (COPD) across Maine and New England. ALANE is interested in focusing COPD education programs with hospitals in areas that have higher than expected COPD re-admissions. For a copy of the report please download: ALANE COPD Re-Admissions Report 2016
  • Colonial Insurance Company Evaluation of a multi island employee wellness program in the Caribbean: PHRI conducted an evaluation of the Virgin Plus Worksite Wellness program for the Colonial Health Insurance, Ltd. PHRI evaluated components of the program and their relationahip to employee participation, employee morale and productivity. We also evaluated program use and its relationship to reductions in risk factors, health services use and costs. Data from medical claims, the program and the organization were used for this evaluation. Since it was done for a private company, no report is available for public ocnsumption. Ron Deprez (lead) and Gary Cattabriga.

PHRI moves into population health research and practice:

  • PHRI Population Health Research Program: Community Roles in Population Health Status Improvement: The vision for this research program is to identify sustainable change models that can be implemented in distinctly different communities and lead to the same or similar outcomes. In particular we will identify how change models can be successfully implemented in communities with varying levels of underlying positive or negative social determinants, health conditions, health disparities or social, economic, cultural, and personal barriers and resources for health.
  • Population Health Article Series: Ron Deprez and Rick Thomas are writing a series of articles focused on population health models of change. The first article –drafted and out for private review—addresses the concept of a population health approach as a method for health status improvement. It covers definitions, application criteria, roles of community and health systems in the model and steps to undertake the model. For a copy of the first article of this series that has just been published click here.

The second article will cover the definitions and meanings of a recommended group of population health measures. It will also provide a template for organizing and interpreting these measures in order to identify the underlying causes of poor health in a community.

The third article will address more comprehensively the roles of health systems and community in using a population health approach to health status improvement. It will draw heavily on examples across the country.

The last article will describe a comprehensive population health assessment process. In this work we will also show how this process differs in content and results from a community health assessment application. Additionally it will provide measures, definitions and a template for conducting the assessment. We will use our 25 plus years in community health needs assessment to identify the value of this approach to health status improvement of populations. 

PHRI Board Members

A voluntary Board of Directors guides PHRI. We are grateful to the men and women of our board; they are dedicated to the well-being of people every where and have distinguished records of excellence in their respective fields.  


Ronald Breazeale, Ph.D. Clinical Psychologist
Executive Director of Psychological & Educational Services

Portland, ME

Dr. Breazeale is a Clinical Psychologist with over 30 years of experience in the fields of mental health and drug and alcohol treatment.  He is currently Executive Director of Psychological & Educational Services, a large independent group mental health practice in Portland, Maine.  He is the author of a number of studies and books in the fields of mental health, criminal justice and substance abuse. In recent years he has developed training programs and materials that focus on the skills and the attitudes that build resilience.

Gary Cattabriga
Data Management, Analytics and Application Development
King of Prussia, PA

Mr. Cattabriga’s career has focused on strategic technology consulting, application development, health informatics and data visualization; delivering solutions ranging from a web-based respiratory health information database and reporting system, to medical claims cost containment systems to automated process control equipment. His previous positions have included software and hardware engineer for several engineering firms, president and consultant of his own technology consulting company and VP of Technology for a healthcare informatics company.  He has experience with large health and administrative datasets, many programming languages and database systems, and statistical analyses and predictive modeling. Gary holds a BS in Physics from Cornell University.


Gail Dana-Sacco, Ph.D., MPH
Scarborough, ME

Dr. Gail Dana-Sacco earned her PhD in Health Policy & Administration at the Johns Hopkins University, where she remains affiliated with the Center for American Indian Health. Through Wayfinders for Health, she works with communities and organizations to find pathways to improved public health outcomes by critically examining and addressing the structural drivers of health inequities and activating community knowledge to develop sustainable solutions. She applies her knowledge of the multiple sectors that interact with the public health to facilitate multi-stakeholder processes, including research, designed to achieve health equity. 

Ronald Deprez, Ph.D., MPH
Associate Research Professor, University of New England
Deer Isle, ME 04627

Ron Deprez serves as President of the Public Health Research Institute and is an Associate Research Professor at the University of New England (UNE). Prior to that he was President of the Public Health Resource Group, where he developed the first comprehensive community health needs assessment process in the US. PHRG used this system all over the US (from Maine to Alaska) to assist communities and health systems to address health system needs and deficiencies to improve population health. He has taught Health Policy and Management in the UNE Master of Public Health (MPH) Program that he was instrumental in building and has lectured all over the US and overseas on topics related to chronic disease practice improvements, surveillance systems and population health assessments. His international experience includes health planning and consulting projects in Mali, Saudi Arabia, The Gambia, Egypt, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Ghana, Ethiopia and China. Ron’s professional focus is now on working with communities to improve the health status of populations through health prevention education, policy and systems change. He is a graduate of Franklin and Marshall College; holds an MA and Ph.D. in Political Science from Rutgers University and a Master of Public Health (MPH) from the Harvard School of Public Health.  

Tim Ford, Ph.D.
Professor and Dean, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Amherst, MA 

Dr. Ford is a microbiologist who formerly served as Vice President for Research and Dean of Graduate Studies at the University of New England in Maine, as Department Head of Microbiology at Montana State University, and as founding director of the Program in water and health at the Harvard School of Public Health.  During his time in Montana, he also served as the director of the NIH-funded Montana IDeA Networks for Biomedical Research Excellence, a statewide program designed to build research and training in infectious disease and environmental health research at Montana’s Universities, four-year and tribal colleges.  Tim Ford was the founding Dean of Health Professions at Shenandoah University in Winchester, VA before migrating back to New England to Umass, Amherst. Ford’s research interests have included source and drinking water microbiology, microbial cycling and transformation of pollutants, global environmental health, epidemiology of waterborne diseases, and community based participatory research methods for community engagement.  He has both directed and participated in water quality related projects in the US, Canada, the UK, Honduras, Mexico, India, Russia, the Philippines and China.   He has published more than 180 research articles, book chapters and commentaries, and was the first recipient of the American Society for Microbiology’s Gen-Probe Joseph Award for exemplary leadership and service in the field of public health.  He currently serves as co-chair on the technical advisory group for the Pan American Health Organization Foundation.

Gail Evans MBA Health Care Administration
Retired, former SVP Marketing and Strategy Maine General Health
Waterville and Augusta, ME 

Gail has served in senior executive positions in strategic, program, and facilities planning and marketing and communications in community hospital systems in VT, CT and ME.  Her work has been grounded in population health assessment to guide need-based service and facility planning always with a focus on comprehensive service continuum development including prevention, diagnostics, treatment, rehabilitation, and disease management.  Her achievements include the development of Vermont’s first community cancer center (incorporating medical radiation, surgery and clinical trials) outside of a university hospital, the Stamford Health System (now Stamford Hospital) Tully Health Center—an integrated ambulatory facility including a full-service gym for individuals with health risks and, a consolidated regional cancer center and hospital facilities for MaineGeneral Health using IDEO and evidence-based design principles.  She has always believed that if you design services to meet the needs of the consumer they will market themselves.

Christine Oliver MD, MPH, MS
Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School,
Co-Director, Mass General Hospital Center for Occupational Lung Disease
President, Occupational Health Initiatives, Inc.
Boston, MA 

Dr. Chris Oliver, President of Occupational Health Initiatives, Inc., is an Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and an Associate Physician in the Department of Medicine (Pulmonary and Critical Care Division) at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.  Board certified in internal medicine and in preventive (occupational) medicine, Dr. Oliver’s primary specialty is occupational and environmental medicine, with an emphasis on occupational lung disease.  She is the Co-Director of Occupational and Environmental Medicine at the Massachusetts General Hospital.  Dr. Oliver is a co-founder and former Medical Director of Public Health Research Institute (PHRI) and, together with Dr. Ron Deprez and PHRI staff, has conducted research in the area of respiratory disease and other public health problems.  She is a Fellow of the Collegium Ramazzini and has published research in the area of occupational lung disease. 


William B. Stason, MD, MSci
Cardiologist, Epidemiologist
Boston, MA 

William B. Stason, MD, MSci is an internist, cardiologist, and epidemiologist who has devoted most of his career to health policy analysis, technology assessment, and health services research.  He has graduated from the University of Michigan, Harvard Medical School, and Harvard School of Public Health, and has served on the faculties of the latter two schools.  He was also a senior scientist at the Heller School of Brandeis University. His main interests have been in hypertension, alternative approaches to medical practice, health care reform, quality improvement, and the costs and cost-effectiveness of health care. He has authored three books and many scientific articles.

Richard K. Thomas, Ph.D.
Health & Performance Resources (partner), University of Mississippi (faculty),
University of Tennessee Health Science Center (faculty/consultant)
Memphis, TN

Richard K. (Rick) Thomas, Ph.D., has spent four decades in health services research and planning.  He began his professional career with the Memphis Regional Medical Program and helped establish the research department at Baptist Memorial Hospital before embarking on a consulting career.  He provides consultation services to hospitals, physician practices, health plans, and other healthcare organizations and has long served as a consultant to faith-based organizations in Memphis such as Methodist-Le Bonheur Healthcare and Christ Community Health Services.  Much of his research and consultation has addressed the issue of health disparities and he is currently focusing on advancing the population health model.  Dr. Thomas holds a Ph.D. in medical sociology from Vanderbilt University and has authored dozens of articles and over twenty books on healthcare (including a forthcoming work on population health).  He holds faculty appointments at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center and the University of Mississippi and serves on the board of directors of the American Health Planning Association. 


For more information

Or to request a meeting with one of our staff, please contact:
Ron Deprez, PhD, MPH