Addressing legal areas related to the interpretation of health information privacy rules for public health practice and research

Public health departments collect, use and analyze health data from a variety of sources, including health care providers, insurers, schools, individuals and other governmental agencies. These data are used to accomplish a host of essential public health activities including surveillance, epidemiological investigations and program evaluation with the overall purpose of guiding public health practice and improving the public's health. The performance of these essential activities at the state and local levels is authorized through statutes and regulations. However, laws can similarly impede the ability of public health departments to accomplish these activities. Notably, federal, state and local health information privacy laws such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy rule and similar provisions at the state or local levels can negatively impact these activities by limiting the ability of public health departments to access and use identifiable health information to address specific public health issues in a timely manner. Health departments are also faced with the burden of completing complex requirements for multiple institutional review boards (IRBs) for activities that are essential to improving the public's health. This project will address three specific legal areas related to the interpretation of health information privacy rules and the essential activities required to protect and improve the public's health. These legal areas include: (1) the distinction between public health practice vs. research; (2) access and use of student's identifiable health data through schools or departments of education by public health authorities; and (3) the application of the HIPAA privacy rule to data streaming from hospital emergency departments. The deliverables for this project include: (1) a monograph on the distinction between public health practice and research; (2) a report with best practices, potential solutions and policy options at the federal and state levels to facilitate data sharing among schools and public health authorities; and (3) a report on the type of data being collected by hospital emergency rooms and its relevance in public health surveillance. Success for this project will be based on development of a useful reference highlighting the distinctions between public health practice and research with models or case studies; the generation of best practices, solutions and policy options for the collection of school health data; and guidelines for the collection of data in hospital emergency rooms.

Grant Details

Amount Awarded $115,015.00

Awarded on: 12/8/2006

Time frame: 1/1/2007 - 5/31/2008

Grant Number: 58480


Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists

2872 Woodcock Boulevard., Suite 303
Atlanta, 30341-4015


Patrick McConnon
Project Director