New Program Will Boost Public Health Agencies' Ability to Use Information Systems to Handle Public Health Threats

    • January 7, 2007

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) has launched Common Ground: Transforming Public Health Information Systems, a three-year, $15 million national initiative. The program will help state and local public health agencies better respond to health threats by improving their use of information systems. RWJF has awarded Common Ground grants—15 grants for up to $30,000 and 16 grants for up to $600,000—to 31 public health agencies throughout the country. (See grantee list below.)

"We hope to develop a shared understanding of public health work and identify areas of commonality among public health agencies," said Dave Ross, Sc.D., director of the Common Ground National Program Office at the Public Health Informatics Institute. "The Common Ground program offers public health agencies the opportunity to collaboratively develop requirements for more effective information systems and better data exchange."

Common Ground seeks to:

  • Persuade public health agencies to integrate informatics principles and sound development methodologies to improve the delivery of public health services.
  • Examine existing public health service business processes—and define requirements for the information systems used to support these processes.
  • Help agencies develop new information system requirements that are more effective and that streamline the delivery of essential public health services.
  • Minimize duplicative efforts by identifying common business processes and information system requirements that are applicable across the public health field.
  • Encourage stakeholders at the local, state, and federal levels to endorse, adopt, and implement redesigned business processes and information system requirements that support public health preparedness and chronic disease prevention and control.

"Our goal is to accelerate the innovative and effective use of information technology by state and local public health agencies," said Terry Bazzarre, Ph.D., RWJF senior program officer. "We recognize that public health agencies need more sophisticated information systems to respond to pandemic flu, bioterrorism, chronic diseases and other threats to our health and safety."

Recent developments in health information technology create tremendous opportunities for public health agencies. Common Ground will build on these developments to help public health agencies improve their business processes and enhance the way they communicate and work with the health care system.

For more information about Common Ground visit

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation's largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful, and timely change. For more than 30 years the Foundation has brought experience, commitment, and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime.

The Public Health Informatics Institute is a non-profit entity dedicated to advancing public health practitioners' ability to strategically apply and manage information systems. The Institute's goal is to foster effective health information systems through collaboration, innovation, and action. The Institute serves as the National Program Office of Common Ground: Transforming Public Health Information Systems, a three-year, $15 million national initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).

Common Ground Grantees and Project Descriptions

Informatics Capacity

State of Alaska Department of Health and Social Services
DPH Business Process Assessment Project

  • To develop and improve business processes in prevention and control of infectious diseases involving epidemiology, nursing, and public health laboratories.

City of Austin Health and Human Services Department (TX)
Common Ground Preparedness Initiative

  • To develop and improve business processes in public health preparedness.

Sonoma County Department of Health Services (CA)
Redesign of Billing and Accounts Receivable for Sonoma County Health Services

  • To develop and improve business processes in billing and accounts receivable across six divisions.

Genesee County Health Department (MI)
S.T.D. with I.T.! [Stop Transmitting Disease with Information Technology!]

  • To develop and improve business processes related to the prevention and control of infectious diseases within the sexually transmitted disease program.

Kane County Health Department (IL)
Building Capacity for Public Health Business Process Assessment and Redesign

  • To develop and improve business processes related to public health preparedness, response, and recovery—involving emergency management, animal control, and preparedness and communicable disease departments.

Louisville/Jefferson County Metro Government (KY)
The Louisville Metro Health Department Informatics Capacity

  • To develop and improve business processes related to maternal and child health with an emphasis on the reduction of infant mortality through interaction with Family Planning Services.

Madison County Health Department (NY)
Madison County Health Department—Informatics Capacity Project

  • To develop and improve business processes related to Home Care Nursing Services.

Mahoning County District Board of Health (OH)
Environmental Health Permitting: Can We Improve the Process?

  • To develop and improve business processes related to environmental health and sanitation by improving the septic permitting process for new homes.

Maricopa County Department of Public Health (AZ)
Maricopa County Public Health Process Redesign

  • To develop and improve business processes related to prevention and control of infectious diseases by creating an integrated solution via electronic health records in clinics.

Monroe County Health Department (MI)
Seamless Service: Integrating Maternal and Child Health Programs in Monroe County, Michigan

  • To develop and improve business processes related to maternal and child health focusing on the integration of WIC and Maternal and Infant Health Programs.

State of Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services
Information Systems Governance and Planning Process

  • To develop and improve business processes that enhance the coordination of information systems, including public health preparedness.

Multnomah County Health Department (OR)
Common Threads: Transforming Decentralized Public Health Data into an Integrated System for Communicable Disease Investigation and Control

  • To develop and improve business processes related to the prevention and control of infectious diseases by reviewing the public health reportable disease surveillance and related interventions to improve responses to communicable disease outbreaks.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Developing Business Process Development Skills for Public Health in NC

  • To improve the usefulness of information systems for environmental health services.

County of Santa Cruz (CA)
Reassessing, Rethinking, and Redesigning Public Health in Santa Cruz County

  • To develop and improve business processes related to chronic disease, specifically aimed at diabetes in underserved populations.

Summit County Board of Health (UT)
A Business Process Analysis of the Work Interactions Between Foodborne Illness, Disease Surveillance, Restaurant Inspection, and Case Management

  • To develop and improve business processes related to food safety and disease surveillance, including restaurant inspections and foodborne illness investigations.

Requirements Development—Chronic Disease

Public Health Authority of Cabarrus County (NC)
Developing Electronic Community Connections for Public Health

  • To develop a new generation of information systems that can support and integrate the use of personal health records by community partners.

State of California, Health and Human Services Agency
Building Bridges: Reducing Chronic Disease in California

  • To collaboratively define business processes for obtaining and using the data essential for chronic disease prevention and control.

Coconino County Health Department (AZ)
CCHD Moves Ahead

  • To develop an integrated information system for a large rural health department covering a diverse area.

Kitsap County Health District (WA)
Kitsap County Health District: Our Business is Your Business

  • To improve the prevention and control of suicide/ depression, obesity, and cancer by improving business processes and developing a set of requirements for a chronic disease information system.

Louisiana Public Health Institute
Louisiana Health Information Exchange [LaHIE]—Public Health Information Systems Improvement Project [PHISIP]

  • To develop an integrated health information system to improve chronic disease management and population health

State of Minnesota Department of Health
Minnesota Common Ground

  • To improve the capacity of information systems to support disease prevention, disease and risk factor surveillance, and improve management of chronic diseases in all populations.

State of Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services
Mainstreaming Chronic Disease Surveillance

  • To streamline chronic disease information systems by forming a team of internal and external stakeholders committed to the prevention and control of chronic disease conditions.

State of Rhode Island Department of Health
Improving Information Systems for Chronic Care and Disease Management

  • To integrate the common business practices across chronic disease programs.

State of South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control
South Carolina Chronic Disease Requirement Development Project

  • To focus on chronic disease prevention and control with a specific interest in surveillance and special emphasis on eliminating health disparities.

State of Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services
Wisconsin's Common Ground: Integrating Chronic Disease Informatics Systems

  • To improve the development of a chronic disease information system by developing informatics best practice knowledge and skills, creating a training infrastructure to disseminate techniques and continuously improve IT systems, developing a set of endorsed processes and requirements, and establishing an implementation plan.

Requirements Development—Preparedness

Children's Hospital Corporation (MA)
State and Local Health Collaboration: Requirements Developement for Resource Management and Patient Tracking for Public Health Preparedness

  • To foster collaboration between the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Cambridge Department of Public Health to improve their ability to track resources, including pharmaceuticals, equipment, and personnel.

Health and Hospital Corporation of Marion County (IN)
MCHD: Requirements Development Project

  • To manage large-scale outbreaks or other public health emergencies by developing requirements to substantially enhance systems for mass prophylaxis, detection of public health emergencies, and coordination with community partners.

Health Research Incorporated (NY)
Adopting a Nationally Accepted Project Management Methodology to Improve Public Health Preparedness Informatics in New York State

  • To advance fully capable and interoperable information systems to ensure critical tools are available and used to support an all-hazards approach in resonding to health threats.

State of Maine Department of Health and Human Services
Grounded in Excellence

  • To realize immediate improvements to statewide public health preparedness planning and to standardize and disseminate an approach for information system development.

Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County (TN)
Incident Command Informatics [ICI]

  • To define business processes, task flows, and information system requirements that support the information needs of the Metro Public Health Incident Command System (ICS) to help prevent, respond to, and recover from a public health emergencies.

Spokane Regional Health District (WA)
Spokane Regional Health District: Requirements Development for Public Health Preparedness

  • To develop collaborative requirements for preparedness within a 10-county region through the Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Response program to achieve goals of detecting, identifying, and responding appropriately and effectively to infectious disease outbreaks and community health emergencies.

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