May 2001 Conference Explores Ways to Increase Role of Technology in Public Health

Conference to develop national strategies for public health informatics

The American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA), Bethesda, Md., held a three-day conference in Atlanta in May 2001 at which public health officials and specialists in public health informatics—the integration of information technology and public health—sought to develop recommendations for strengthening informatics in public health.

The AMIA is a national association dedicated to the development and application of computer technology in supporting patient care, teaching, research and health care administration.

Key Results

  • "Developing a National Agenda for Public Health Informatics," held May 15–17, 2001, in Atlanta drew 488 attendees—including 140 AMIA members, 299 non-members (mostly local and regional public health officials) and 49 students—for a discussion of these issues and the development of possible strategies for strengthening the role of informatics in population health.

    The conference included a keynote address, a panel discussion, 12 short talks, and 4 break-out sessions for each of six "tracks" (topic areas) related to public health informatics. Conference participants participated in one track for the entire conference, and they developed these key recommendations.

    • Funds for information management need to be part of the core public health budget.
    • Public health informatics must create an information infrastructure that includes a longitudinal, person-based integrated data repository.
    • A data repository should be integrated with appropriate levels of personally identified data being held at state and local levels for a specific purpose, with de-identified data (data not identifiable with an actual person) held at the national level.
    • Existing health data standards must be expanded to cover public health information and transactions.
    • The public health system should develop a research agenda for informatics and standardized evaluation models for public health information systems.
    • A hierarchy of advisory bodies—from local ethics committees to national organizations—needs to be created to develop policy regarding privacy, confidentiality and security and to monitor information exchange.
    • The public health workforce needs informatics training at all levels.

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