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Epidemiology methods – Our common link

Posted By Matt Thomas, Thursday, July 24, 2014
Untitled Document
As an epidemiologist for the tobacco program and formerly with the healthcare associated infections program at the Vermont Department of Health, I’ve been exposed to several different types of public health practice within applied epidemiology. Every program area has one thing in common—each relies on the same epidemiology and surveillance concepts and methods. These methods provide a foundation that ties all of our work together.

I’m finding in my career that epidemiologist are often in situations in which they may not have enough time or resources to fully utilize their training in epidemiology methods. This might be due to the pressures to quickly provide the public and partners with data or the need to have epidemiologist play a role in a variety of other functions (e.g., disease control, program evaluation, performance measurement, or informatics). The epidemiologist may have a supporting role in all of these activities, but that role shouldn’t be at the expense of the practice of epidemiology methods. While providing data to the public and partners is an essential function of an applied epidemiologist, that data is produced as a result of epidemiology and statistical methods. Placing a priority on that final product without prioritizing methods can lead to less reliable data. The Epidemiology Methods Subcommittee was formed to address these issues.
The Epidemiology Methods Subcommittee gives us the opportunity to highlight why epidemiological methods are integral to public health. The subcommittee focuses on both providing methodological content and building capacity to better allow epidemiologists to practice their skills.
So far, this new subcommittee has begun a series of webinars, each of which focuses on a different topic pertinent to applied epidemiologists. These webinars allow us to listen to our colleagues talk about epidemiology methods in-depth so we can use them in our day-to-day work. For example, one webinar looked at analyzing public health data using census tract-level poverty. Another discussed data analysis in small jurisdictions. Continuing to learn new methods and improve our skills allows us to enhance public health.
Going forward the subcommittee will take on projects related to improving how health departments function as a system in addition to professional development about epidemiology methods. In many settings, improving the organizational setting may be a necessary step that allows epidemiologists to practice the novel methods they learn from the webinars.
I have often heard from leaders in epidemiology that we need to advocate for our role in the public health landscape, especially in an ever-tightening funding climate. The Epidemiology Methods Subcommittee can be a forum for us to improve our skills, promote the value of these skills to our partners, and advocate for the ability to use these methods to their fullest.
I’d like to see this cross-disciplinary group of epidemiologists continue to come together to learn about new topics and ways to promote and advocate for their value. We’re still in our formative stage as a subcommittee, and we could use your participation to shape it into what you want it to be. What do you want help with? What issues are you dealing with in your health department? What have you found success in that you can share?
Matt Thomas, PhD is an epidemiologist at the Vermont Department of Health and the chair of the Epidemiology Methods Subcommittee.

Tags:  epidemiology  member spotlight  professional development 

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Alaska’s New Vaccine Assessment Law

Posted By Joe McLaughlin, Thursday, July 17, 2014

In June 2014, Alaska Senate Bill 169, which authorized the formation of a statewide vaccine assessment account, was signed into law. The intent of this new law is to preserve universal access to state-distributed vaccines for children and to provide state-distributed vaccine for covered adults.

Effective January 1, 2015, the vaccine assessment account will be forward-funded through vaccine payments from payers (e.g., private and public health care insurers, health benefit plans, and third-party administrators), and will be overseen by an independent vaccine assessment council. Payers will be assessed based on their proportionate share of the overall vaccine costs. The Alaska Immunization Program will then use the account funds to purchase vaccines at a discounted rate from a bulk contract and distribute pediatric and adult vaccines to health care providers statewide.  

Although many other states have already created similar vaccine financing solutions, below are some of the distinctive features of the Alaska law that might benefit policy makers in other states who would like to pursue similar legislation in the future.

  • Adult Vaccines: Alaska’s new law allows assessments for both pediatric and adult vaccines. State-distributed vaccine will be available to providers for all children and adults who are covered by participating payers. Most other states that have similar programs only allow for the purchase of pediatric vaccines. 

  • The Model: The two primary models under consideration for the Alaska assessment are the “covered lives” model (e.g., Idaho) and the “dosage-based assessment” model (e.g., Washington). Alaska’s new law is not prescriptive in terms of which model should be used; rather, it allows Alaska’s Vaccine Assessment Council the flexibility to make this determination.

  • Phase-in Period:  Under procedures approved by the DHSS Commissioner, an assessable entity will be able to opt-out of the program during a 3-year phase-in period. The effective dates will likely be on January 1 each year during 2015–2017.

  • Mandatory Participation: The law mandates participation—after the 3-year phase-in period—from all assessable entities, to the extent participation in the program is authorized by law. This includes Employee Retirement Income Security Law (ERISA) plans and publicly funded coverage like Medicare, Medicaid, and TRICARE. While publicly-funded healthcare benefit plans are included in the law’s definition of a health care insurer, it is currently unclear whether this law can require these entities to participate in the assessment program after the 3-year phase-in period, as federal law might prohibit such a mandate for at least some of the plans. Any federal plans that cannot be required to participate might still be able to opt-in to the assessment; those that are not able or willing to opt-in will need to continue directly purchasing vaccine for those clients not covered in the assessment by another payer.

  • Provider Opt-in: Providers will receive, at no cost, state-supplied vaccine purchased with vaccine assessment funds. Unique to the Alaska model, providers who care for uninsured adults can benefit from the state’s bulk purchasing power by opting-in to the program at any time. This provision offers providers a more cost-effective way to fund vaccines for their uninsured adult patients. 

  • Pharmacists: Pharmacists with a collaborating physician licensed in Alaska will be able to receive state-distributed vaccine for all children and adults who are covered by participating payers. Pharmacists can receive state distributed vaccine for uninsured adults if they opt-in to the program. 

  • Alaska’s Vaccine Assessment Council Responsibilities: The Alaska Vaccine Assessment Council will be established within the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. Responsibilities of the Council include determining 1) the method for calculating the assessment amount; 2) the method for determining proportional costs to payers; 3) procedures for collecting and depositing assessment fees; 4) procedures for collecting data, which includes at a minimum the number of covered individuals and vaccine usage; and 5) developing a system for crediting overpayments. The council will consist of eight members appointed by the DHSS Commissioner; all members will serve without compensation for up to two 3-year terms.

The Alaska Immunization Program is committed to working with providers to make as much state-supplied vaccine available to Alaskans as possible in an equitable fashion.  More information about this Law is available at www.epi.alaska.gov under the “Spotlights” section, “Vaccine Assessment Account FAQ” link.

Joe McLaughlin is the State Epidemiologist of Alaska and CSTE President-Elect.

Joe McLaughlin

Tags:  Alaska  immunization  Law  member spotlight  Vaccine 

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Increasing informatics capacity

Posted By Lauren Reeves, Thursday, July 10, 2014
Updated: Thursday, July 10, 2014
“People are the most important; the systems are secondary.” Joe Gibson, Director of Epidemiology at the Marion County Public Health Department in Indiana, understands the importance of having capable people for public health and informatics capacity. He views epidemiology as decision support: getting the right information to the right people at the right time, to improve decisions affecting the health of the community. The belief in this process is underscored by Joe’s support of public health informatics training. Joe is a mentor in the Applied Public Health Informatics Fellowship program, which provides on-the-job training to recent graduates in order to increase public health informatics capacity. 

The Fellow working in Marion County under Joe’s mentorship is Crystal Clay, a graduate student in the School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University Purdue University in Indianapolis. Crystal has enjoyed her time as an APHIF Fellow, because she’s received more experience with informatics and has been able to learn about public health informaticians and public health practitioners. “I’ve learned a lot about the value of effective communication, a vital skill for public health informaticians,” Crystal adds. “Effectively engaging stakeholders is especially important in informatics, which involves interacting with a diverse workforce.” She says the mentorship model of the fellowship was extremely helpful in understanding the health department culture, the agency’s structure and dynamics, and completing projects. 

Crystal has worked on several projects as a Fellow. One has dealt with Meaningful Use compliance, working with health department providers to teach them how to use the electronic prescribing system, and to adapt the system to the provider’s needs. “I created a training document and facilitated several training sessions to help providers improve care and ensure compliance,” she says.. “Marion County will continue to benefit from the progress Crystal has made,” Joe says. “She has made considerable progress on important informatics projects for our health department.”

Joe and Crystal both emphasize the role of informatics in public health and the role that business process analysis plays. Business process analysis helps get public health program staff to understand data and information as well as the technical side. Clearer business processes can streamline how public health works, making it more effective. Joe says that “public health increasingly needs rapid access to information. Both developing good information systems and paying attention to processes are important parts of achieving that.”

Perhaps the biggest indicator of the program’s success is the future. Joe says “I’d definitely continue a relationship with APHIF. The fellowship helps us train informaticians with great technical and public health skills.” Crystal, too, is looking towards the future and is interested in staying in public health. She also would like to serve as a mentor one day. “Mentors have played a monumental role in my success. It’s my desire to contribute to the development of other aspiring public health informaticians.”


Crystal Clay

For more information about the Applied Public Health Informatics Fellowship and other training programs offered by CSTE, including how to apply to be a mentor or a fellow, please visit www.aphif.org

Tags:  informatics  member spotlight  workforce development 

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Looking ahead to 2014-2015

Posted By Alfred DeMaria, Thursday, July 3, 2014
The CSTE Annual Conference was stimulating and thought provoking—there were many excellent examples of “epidemiology in action.” Attendees shared ideas and experiences, and created a real “community of practice.”
Now that we’re back from Nashville, I’m looking ahead to 2014–2015. Issues raised at the annual conference reinforced ideas I had about priorities for this coming year:
  • Informatics capacity continues to be a struggle, but we’re making progress. CSTE’s advocacy efforts educate policy makers to increase awareness and encourage funding. CSTE’s workforce development initiatives improve existing and new epidemiologists’ competencies in informatics skills. These continued efforts are important to sustain progress in this area.
  • Developments in laboratory technology are just beginning to have a huge impact on public health surveillance. We will have to adapt to these changes to preserve our ability to do effective surveillance.
  • Public health must align with the changes occurring in healthcare delivery and the focus on accountable care. Accountable care organizations (ACOs) are going to be responsible for the health of the populations in their care, not just their medical care. Public health epidemiologists should be the ones who are recognized as monitoring population health, identifying needs and holding ACOs truly accountable.
  • Hepatitis C, as a public health challenge, is entering a whole new level of complexity. Literally millions of cases are diagnosed and being diagnosed. We are entering an era of cure with more easily tolerated, shorter course, highly effective, but expensive therapy. We will be called on to define the burden and monitor trends, but we have never had the needed resources.
Together we can improve applied epidemiology, improve public health, and improve the health of our communities.
 
Alfred DeMaria, Jr. is the president of CSTE and the State Epidemiologist at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
 

Tags:  healthcare  infectious disease  informatics  laboratory 

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We’ve just begun!

Posted By Jennifer Lemmings, Thursday, June 26, 2014
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We at the CSTE National Office spend a lot of time planning for the Annual Conference – determining the topics and the session presentations, finding plenary speakers, getting the right mix of formal sessions and informal discussion and developing networking opportunities. And then, all of a sudden, the conference is here!
We’re at the last day of the conference already, and we’ve had another excellent meeting. Attendees from all over the country gathered to discuss topics ranging from occupational health to surveillance methods to oral health to vectorborne disease. We discussed and approved occupational health and infectious disease position statements that will be posted on our website soon. In addition, Steering Committees and several subcommittees held meetings to discuss their activities in the past year and plans for the upcoming year.
The work doesn’t end with the conference. In fact, CSTE program activities are year round. This summer, CSTE has several collaborative projects and ways for you to stay or get involved.
NNDSS Modernization Initiative (NMI)
CSTE is partnering with APHL to provide technical support for CDC’s NMI on the completion of six message mapping guides (MMGs): generic guide v.2, STD, hepatitis, congenital syphilis, pertussis, and mumps. Through this collaboration, CSTE and APHL will provide technical assistance to invited state and local jurisdictions and assist them in adopting the MMGs and using them to send test case notification messages to the CDC Platform. Stay tuned for webinars, online technical guides, and other training materials to support this implementation. More information on CDC’s NNDSS Modernization Initiative can be found on the CDC website.
New Vectorborne Diseases Subcommittee
This week marked the first meeting of the new vectorborne diseases (VBD) subcommittee. This subcommittee was formed to increase knowledge and improve practices related to VBD epidemiology in local, state, tribal, and territorial settings. The subcommittee will also serve as an overseeing body for reviewing and developing national position statements on VBD-related topics. Activities will include regular conference calls, training webinars, developing white papers, and convening a pre-conference workshop at the 2015 CSTE Annual Conference. If you are interested in joining this new subcommittee, please contact Dhara Patel at the National Office.
Epidemiology Methods Subcommittee
The Epidemiology Methods Subcommittee is another new subcommittee, which aims to increase knowledge and practice of epidemiological methods in state, local, tribal, and territorial settings. The subcommittee meets monthly via conference call to address relevant and emerging topics in epidemiologic methods. The CSTE webinar library is a great place to view past training webinars from this subcommittee and other CSTE program areas—I highly encourage you to check out recent sessions.
Public Health and Primary Care Integration Subcommittee
The Public Health and Primary Care Integration Subcommittee aims to promote partnerships between health providers and public health. This subcommittee addresses community epidemiologic surveillance to support community health needs assessments, the public health interface and use of electronic health records, and sharing lessons learned from successful public health and primary care professional partnerships. Subcommittee activities include regular calls and webinars (available at the webinar library). Contact Jessica Pittman if you are interested in participating in this subcommittee.
CSTE committee conference calls are a great way to find out what’s happening in a subcommittee and participate in discussions. Don’t miss out! Upcoming calls and information can be found on the CSTE calendar.
Not sure what fits best with your interests, or have an idea to share? Call any member of our program staff. We can discuss how you can contribute and be involved. There are plenty of examples of members trying out a committee and finding something they’re passionate about, like Andrea Alvarez or Renee Calanan.
 
We’re looking forward to working with you!
Jennifer Lemmings
Epidemiology Program Director
 
 

Tags:  cross cutting  staff spotlight  surveillance 

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Strike a Chord at the 2014 CSTE Annual Conference

Posted By Tim Jones, Thursday, June 19, 2014
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I am excited to welcome ‘y'all' to Nashville, Tennessee! In addition to taking advantage of a full and exciting conference agenda, I hope everyone takes time to enjoy the great setting of this year's meeting and the best of Nashville's attractions.

This year, our conference includes speakers, presentations, and discussions on a huge variety of topics, covering the full range of applied epidemiology under our theme, “Strike a Chord: Epi with Impact.” The CSTE Annual Conference is a unique opportunity to see colleagues and meet new ones from around the country, those within your program area and beyond. I encourage you to take advantage of professional development and learning opportunities outside your own “silos” to explore aspects of our field with which you may be less familiar.
New things going on at the conference this year include:
  • Poster rounds: This pilot program gives attendees a way to engage with poster presentations more actively. Moderators will lead poster round sessions, modeled after IDSA, to guide discussion and engage both attendees and presenters.
    (Infectious disease, Occupational health, and Surveillance/Informatics Monday at 12:30 pm; Chronic disease/MCH/Oral health and Environmental health Tuesday at 12:30 pm)
  • Informatics fellowship graduation: In addition to the Applied Epidemiology Fellowship graduation ceremony at the Connections Reception, our Applied Public Health Informatics Fellows will also graduate this year!
    (Connections reception Sunday at 6 pm; tickets required)
  • Rapid fire sessions: New breakout sessions this year allow for more presentations and accepted abstracts. As the name suggests, these presentations move quickly and give attendees the opportunity to hear a greater breadth of topics.
    (Chronic disease/MCH/Oral health Tuesday at 10:30 am; Infectious disease Tuesday and Wednesday at 10:30 am)
  • Deadly Outbreaks book signing and roundtable: Hear from author Alexandra Levitt and book contributors about the outbreak investigations featured in the book and get your copy autographed.
    (Book signing Sunday at 5:30 pm; Roundtable Monday at 1 pm)
Focus on informatics capacity development:
I’m very enthusiastic about the attention informatics has received recently. Thanks to CSTE’s efforts, including many of you, CDC has embraced the call for increased informatics capacity at CDC and in state and local jurisdictions. The Informatics Training In Place Program (ITIPP), the CDC Public Health Informatics Fellowship Program (PHIFP), and the Applied Public Health Informatics Fellowship are all examples of increasing efforts to meet this important need.
The Annual Conference will feature lots of sessions and discussions about informatics, including topics such as increasing data quality, Meaningful Use, ELR, and more.
Thank you to the Planning Committee, the Executive Board, the Bylaws Committee, and National Office staff for your work to drive this year’s conference to be another successful one.
And thank you to all of the attendees, presenters, and moderators for making our conference vibrant!
Don’t forget your name badge, mobile device (so you can download the conference app!), or your dancing shoes for a great conference in Nashville next week. I trust that you will enjoy networking, professional development, and contributing to important initiatives, and all leave feeling enthusiastic about CSTE and the future of applied epidemiology.
Tim Jones, MD
CSTE President

Tags:  Annual Conference  membership 

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CSTE Executive Board election results: And the winners are…

Posted By Jeff Engel, Friday, June 13, 2014
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CSTE held its first ever electronic vote this year for new Executive Board members. Our 2012-2014 Strategic Plan explicitly called for a restructuring of the governance to help strengthen CSTE as the home organization for all applied public health epidemiologists. This restructuring resulted in last year’s by-laws changes, when CSTE voted to open Executive Board elections to not just the one representative from each state or territory but any CSTE active member. With the help of modern technology and our National Office staff, 43% of active members participated in the election.

The new Executive Board members are:
  • Joseph McLaughlin, Alaska: President-Elect
  • Kristy Bradley, Oklahoma: Infectious Disease Steering Committee chair
  • Marci Layton, New York City: Member-at-Large
  • Sarah Park, Hawaii: Secretary/Treasurer
And the winners are… you! If you are a CSTE member, you are represented by these capable and experienced epidemiologists who will advocate for your interests within our professional association and to Congress. The CSTE Executive Board and leadership represents the full voice and power of applied epidemiology in its work to partner with CDC and other agencies, to advocate for better systems and processes, to collaborate with APHL, ASTHO, NACCHO, and other partners, and more. You are the winner in this election, because the Executive Board puts a tremendous amount of time and effort into improving our field that, in turn, improves the public’s health.
Please join me in congratulating the newest members of the CSTE Executive Board.
Jeff Engel is the Executive Director of CSTE and a former State Epidemiologist. For more information on joining CSTE and supporting the Board and CSTE’s efforts to improve applied epidemiology, click here or contact the National Office.

Tags:  membership  staff spotlight 

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Position Statement Process Helps HAI Programs and Engages a CSTE Member

Posted By Lauren Reeves, Thursday, June 5, 2014
Untitled Document
At the 2013 Annual Conference, CSTE passed position statement 13-ID-02, “Healthcare-associated infections data presentation and reporting standardization.” Although individual states have regulations on how healthcare-associated infection (HAI) data are displayed and shared, position statement author Andrea Alvarez, of the Virginia Department of Health’s HAI program, felt it was important to have a standardized approach and model for HAI data analysis, reporting, and presentation. The position statement highlighted the need for guidelines about the public reporting of HAI data. An HAI data analysis and presentation standardization workgroup was formed in 2013 after the position statement was approved.
After participating in the HAI subcommittee for several years and understanding the importance of data presentation issues in her daily work as an HAI program coordinator, Alvarez felt strongly about pursuing a position statement. “I knew why this position statement was needed, and I had strong support from other HAI subcommittee members and the CSTE staff,” Alvarez said. “The structure of the position statement template and the valuable insights of my colleagues helped the statement come together relatively easily.”
Below are some of the details of the process that Alvarez and other authors go through to submit a position statement.
Process
Position statements document policy issues that affect public health and CSTE members. They can make a general policy statement or call for placing a health condition under standardized surveillance. Any active CSTE member can identify an issue of importance and submit it as a position statement for consideration by the relevant Steering Committee and then the CSTE membership. Templates for different types of position statements help authors write in a consistent format, especially when calling for standardized surveillance.
Timeline
Many position statement authors begin thinking about, discussing, and writing their position statement well before the deadline, but position statements must be submitted 10 weeks before the June business meeting. After the submission deadline, position statements are posted on the CSTE website so that members can read and consider them before discussions at the Annual Conference. Informal discussion webinars take place several weeks before the conference to provide a forum for discussion—this year they’ll take place on June 10, 12, and 17. Infectious disease position statements are discussed at informal roundtables at the Annual Conference on Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning.
At the Annual Conference, CSTE members are encouraged to attend formal discussions scheduled by Steering Committee where each position statement is formally presented, discussed by CSTE members, and voted on. Position statements that are approved by the Steering Committees are then brought to the business meeting for final approval. At this meeting, representatives from each state and territory vote on the position statements.
After approval
Approved position statements become CSTE policy and are posted on the position statement archive. The author is responsible for tracking the position statement during the following year and reporting back on its status and impact.
Impact of 13-ID-02 on public health
Per the position statement’s desired actions to be taken, the HAI data analysis and presentation standardization workgroup was formed following the position statement’s approval. It is a multidisciplinary group of CDC and CSTE epidemiologists and HAI coordinators, communications specialists, and representatives from consumer groups. “We’re developing a toolkit to describe best practices and to recommend methods of presenting HAI data analyses,” Alvarez says. The toolkit’s introduction and methods section will provide guidance to HAI coordinators on the structure and content of their state HAI data reports. The toolkit will also contain two report templates (one targeted to healthcare consumers and the other to healthcare professionals that contains more technical information) that demonstrate the use of these best practices and provide several considerations for the display of HAI data. The toolkit aims to improve stakeholders’ capacity to understand and use HAI data and consumers’ ability to make informed choices about their healthcare.
“The position statement created this workgroup, which has had important discussions about ways to analyze and report HAI data. The toolkit we’re putting together will help us in public health, those working in healthcare facilities, and hopefully healthcare consumers as well.” Alvarez says that this outcome of the position statement has “helped me grow as a public health professional by affording me the opportunity to lead a national workgroup in close partnership with Lindsey Weiner, an epidemiologist from CDC. The process has helped me understand CSTE better and has definitely helped me get more out of my participation with CSTE and the HAI subcommittee.”
Andrea Alvarez, MPH is the Healthcare-Associated Infections Program Coordinator at the Virginia Department of Health. Nicole Bryan, MPH is the Associate Research Analyst and the HAI lead at the CSTE National Office.
For more information about position statements, please visit the position statement overview page. Individual CSTE National Office staff can help you with specific questions.

Tags:  HAI  member spotlight  position statement 

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Why is it important for local epi’s to join CSTE?

Posted By Laurene Mascola, Thursday, May 29, 2014
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I have had the privilege of being on CSTE’s Executive Board for 5 years—I was the first president elected from a local health department. It is crucial that local health department epidemiologists take an active role in CSTE, as the locals are the footsoldiers of public health. The states can mandate all that they want, but they need to hear from us! Our perspective can shed light on a different reality during decision making. We are all after the same prize—creating a healthier population.

First, some history. The Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE) was founded more or less in 1951 by the CDC’s first Epidemiology Division Director, Alexander Langmuir, who recognized the important role of state and local epidemiologists and tasked them to decide what diseases should be reported nationally. This meeting, held by CSTE in 1951, generated the first fully-documented list of notifiable diseases. CSTE has continued to hold the responsibility for defining and recommending the diseases and conditions that are reportable within states.

Since its beginning, CSTE has grown into a national organization for state, local, tribal, and territorial epidemiologists across disciplines and disease categories, representing their interests with CDC, other national organizational partners, and Congress. CSTE’s work includes infectious disease, maternal and child health, chronic disease and oral health, and injury, environmental health, and occupational health. It recently started a subcommittees for public health law, epidemiology methods, and the integration of public health and primary care. CSTE also keeps up on current and important issues, like substance abuse, MERS-CoV and other outbreaks, and informatics. By joining CSTE, epidemiologists become part of a public health network that delivers up-to-date information on important issues and allows us to benefit from professional development opportunities, and participate in networking events.
But why should you join? You’re like me—a local epi. And as local epi’s, we have a perspective to offer CSTE and its many program areas and subcommittees. We should join CSTE not only for what CSTE can offer us as applied epidemiologists but also for what we can offer CSTE. How do federal policies filter down to local jurisdictions when they’re implemented? What challenges do local jurisdictions face when funding is cut or a major incident occurs? How does what we do differ from that at the state level? What successful programs or challenges do we experience in our day-to-day work that we want others to know about? These are all examples of ways we can help CSTE represent all applied epidemiologists. These are ways we can add our perspective to CSTE’s activities. These are reasons why we as locals should join CSTE.
Click here for more information about CSTE membership.
Laurene Mascola, MD, MPH, FAAP is the chief of the acute communicable disease control program at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. She is the Vice President of CSTE.

Tags:  local epidemiology  membership 

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5th Annual Disaster Epidemiology Workshop emphasized innovations in the field

Posted By Ashley Conley, Thursday, May 22, 2014
Untitled Document

On May 14-15, 2014, 55 people gathered in Atlanta from state and local health departments across the U.S., along with representatives from CDC, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the American Red Cross at the Fifth Annual Disaster Epidemiology (DE) Workshop. The CSTE workshop was also broadcast live via webinar. Approximately 60 people participated virtually via webinar. The theme of the workshop was “Innovations in Disaster Epidemiology,” which reflects how widely accepted DE is becoming as a part of the public health response to large-scale emergencies. The workshop was supported through a cooperative agreement with CDC and was co-sponsored by the Safe States Alliance (SSA) and NACCHO.

Dr. Sally Phillips, RN, PhD, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary (acting) for the Office of Health Affairs (OHA) at DHS, was the workshop’s keynote speaker. She described the evolution of DHS’s role in addressing health issues related to homeland security, including biological and chemical defense; food, agricultural, and veterinary defense; planning and exercise support; health incidence surveillance; and state and local initiatives. Another major focus of OHA is the safety and health of the more than240,000 employees in DHS, which includes staff in FEMA, US Border Patrol, and many others. OHA has overseen a strengthening of biodefense efforts of the BioWatch Program and the National Biosurveillance Integration Center. OHA is also working on guidance for radiation and nuclear disasters and for chemical defense programs. Workshop participants had many questions for Dr. Phillips about how OHA and DHS interact with public health agencies at the state and local levels.

The workshop included the following five sessions:
  • Surveillance during Disasters: Innovations in the Use of Technology and Tools
    • E-Surveillance
    • Epi-Info Applications for DE
    • Utilizing Android Tablets for Data Entry in the Field
  • Social Media and DE: Innovative Approaches to Surveillance and Situational Awareness
    • Hurricane Sandy: Changing the Landscape of Social Media Strategies
    • Operation Dragon Fire
    • Tracking Deaths during Hurricane Sandy
  • Innovating Approaches for Disaster Response to Recent Events
    • Blast Injuries from a Massive Explosion in a Residential Area in Texas, 2013
    • Acute Health Effects Associated with the Elk River Chemical Spill in West Virginia, 2014
  • Emergency Management and DE—An Innovative Partnerships from One State’s Perspective (Alabama)
  • Establishing Innovative Partnerships for Conducting DE
    • Operational Biosurveillance in the National Biosurveillance Integration Center
    • Partnering with the American Red Cross in the Disaster Cycle
The CSTE DE Subcommittee provided an overview of its major activities and accomplishments during the last year. The webinar was recorded and will be made available soon on the webinar library.
Ashley Conley, MS, CPH, CHEP is the chair of the Disaster Epidemiology Subcommittee. She is an epidemiologist at the city of Nashua Division of Public Health and Community Services in New Hampshire.
( Photo by Gil Talbot, courtesy of Saint Anselm College)
Ashley Conley, MS, CPH, CHEP
Nashua Division of Public Health and Community Services
New Hampshire

Tags:  disaster epidemiology  meeting summary 

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