Global health security depends on 24/7 population-wide, fast, complete and accurate detection and reporting of diseases and conditions of high public health consequence. Every day—often unbeknownst to most Americans—public health surveillance is saving lives by detecting and facilitating the response to health threats, including E. coli contaminated lettuce, measles, antibiotic resistance, lead poisoning, influenza, health care-associated infections, opioid overdoses, Zika, and more.
Unfortunately, the nation’s public health data systems are antiquated, rely on obsolete surveillance methods, and are in dire need of security upgrades. Lack of interoperability, reporting consistency, and data standards leads to errors in quality, timeliness, and communication. Sluggish, manual processes—paper records, spreadsheets, faxes and phone calls—still in widespread use, have consequences, most notably, delayed detection and response to public health threats of all types: chronic, emerging, and urgent.
To protect our nation’s health security we need more, better, faster, and secure data. For the first time ever, the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE), Association of Public Health Laboratories, National Association for Public Health Statistics and Information Systems (NAPHSIS), and Healthcare Information & Management Systems Society (HIMSS) have joined together to spearhead a campaign to secure $1 billion over the next decade—$100 million in fiscal year 2020—to modernize the public health surveillance enterprise at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and through it, the state, local, tribal, and territorial health departments. This funding would also support efforts to modernize the public health workforce by training, recruiting (e.g., student loan repayment and fellowships), and retaining skilled data scientists. Data systems require adept staff to use them, maintain them, interpret the data, and develop and deploy actionable public health interventions to save lives.
Pictured: CSTE Executive Board members and staff visiting Capitol Hill in March to promote the new advocacy initiative, Data: Elemental to Health
Our “Data: Elemental to Health” campaign is gaining traction in Washington, DC and beyond since its launch in February:
· More than 80 institutions representing health care providers, patients and consumers, public health professionals, and IT developers have endorsed our funding request to Congress. You can read a copy of our letter to appropriators HERE.
· CSTE’s leadership travelled to Capitol Hill in March to discuss our proposal with officials in Congress, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Office of Management and Budget;
· Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)—recognizing the need to modernize the data infrastructure—sent a letter to appropriators endorsing our funding request;
· CSTE’s Director of Science and Policy Janet Hamilton was invited to testify before the House appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over public health funding about the dire need to build a public health data superhighway of the 21st Century. You can watch her testimony HERE and access her written statement for the record HERE.
We will soon know if our campaign has made an impact when the House appropriations subcommittee unveils its public health funding bill on/around April 30 and the full committee considers it on May 8.
You can help us between now and then by sharing this blog, our campaign flyer and letter, Janet’s testimony, and this Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) video about the campaign with your colleagues at the department of health, your governor, and to the extent you are comfortable, with your federal elected officials. This funding, if appropriated, will represent the most significant, strategic, transformative investment in data systems at the federal, state, and local levels ever, and we want as many people as possible to know about it.
Emily J. Holubowich, MPP is the Senior Vice President, Cavarocchi Ruscio Dennis Associates, LLC. Emily joined CRD Associates in 2009 and has nearly 20 years of experience in health and fiscal policy, government relations, strategic communications, and coalition management. She has represented CSTE’s interests on Capitol Hill since 2013.