Attempts to Create a Database of Public Health Initiatives Fall Short of Goal

Inventory of current public and private sector public health initiatives

From 1996 to 1998, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, Washington, developed and maintained a listing of initiatives by public and private sector groups to improve the public health infrastructure.

The association is a national organization that represents senior state public health officials. Intended to be a comprehensive and up-to-date compilation of recent activities and ongoing efforts, the project was planned to remedy the fragmentation of public health information caused by the tendency of public health departments to form databases for specific programs or disciplines.

The listing would permit public health professionals around the country to keep abreast of the latest initiatives and have access to the resources identified by the inventory.

Key Results

  • The association convened a meeting of the Health Information/Core Public Health Policy Committee on July 15, 1996, in Chicago, Ill, that was designed to identify the communication that was taking place among state officials on public health initiatives.

    Association staff planned to use this information to outline state health officials' perspectives on the strategic direction the organization could take in the evolution of population-based public-health-information infrastructure. The members of the committee produced a discussion paper that was disseminated to members, affiliates, and federal agencies in an effort to gain funding to support the association's initiative in this area.
  • In September 1996, association staff conducted a survey of state health departments about state activities and experiences related to infrastructure changes. The survey uncovered trends in the public health system, but with many changes taking place in the health care system, the information soon became outdated.
  • The project also developed a listing of public health initiatives in an electronic database, printable in tabular format. Originally project staff intended to update this database bimonthly and disseminate it on a quarterly basis. They produced an initial version in 1996, but discontinued their work in October of that year due to staffing problems.

Funding

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) supported the project with a grant of $35,813 between July 1996 and March 1998.

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