Modern and interoperable data systems are needed to address health threats

The four-part Lights, Camera, Action summit series examines key focus areas to prepare the country’s public health system for the future

ATLANTE, February 1, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a spotlight on the nation’s public health infrastructure and underscored the need to invest in and develop comprehensive, flexible and interoperable data systems to track and address challenges chronic health challenges as well as future infectious disease outbreaks. Last week, organizations and individuals representing various sectors came together for the second summit in the Lights, Camera, Action: The Future of Public Health summit series to discuss the critical topic of data modernization and how it relates to better health outcomes for all.

“Our ultimate goal is to move from siled and fragile public health data systems to connected, resilient, adaptable and sustainable ‘responsive’ systems,” said Daniel B. Jernigan, MD, MPH, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Deputy Director for Public Health Science and Surveillance. “Having these systems in place can help us fix problems before they happen and reduce the damage caused by problems that do occur, whether it’s resolving long-standing issues like the health equity or preparing our country for the next infectious or non-infectious threat.”

Jernigan noted that progress is being made in the public health community in this regard compared to before the COVID-19 pandemic, with now more than 10,300 health facilities using electronic case notification compared to 187 previously. Additionally, he said data pipelines have progressed to inform action by public health professionals with more than 530 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines tracked in just over a year and the clinical and environmental labs now sharing over 1.5 million results. per day with CDC.

But much remains to be done, from making needed improvements in how the public, public health, healthcare and other sectors use new technologies, to creating standards and future-proof data systems that enable real-time, actionable intelligence in the service of public health.

Emphasizing this point, Judy Monroe, MD, President and CEO of the CDC Foundation, told attendees, “We need to know where we are going and how we are going to get there. Architecture and design matter. Context matters. Equity matters. More importantly, each of you matter.”

The question of ensuring that improvements in data lead to improvements in health and well-being for everyone, everywhere, was also at the heart of discussions at the summit. Gail Christopher, Chairman of the Trust for America’s Health, spoke about this need and the challenge that comes with it. “We need to bring fairness to the center and not as an afterthought, not as much but to the center. We need to listen to the voices of people whose voices usually go unsaid.”

In light of new resources and unprecedented funding, a number of speakers highlighted the opportunity this moment presents to create and connect data systems and prepare the workforce to use the data to their full potential.

One of the needs is to resolve interoperability issues. Micky Tripathi, PhD, MPP, National Health Information Technology Coordinator in the Office of the Secretary of HHS, described his office’s work with the CDC to leverage health information technology ecosystems and to make Advance a public health system architecture to improve access to clinical data for actionable intelligence for state, tribal, local and territorial health authorities. “Health departments are burdened with too much time spent managing data, leaving too little time for actionable insights.” Tripathi described a “North Star” architecture that would provide healthcare services with the benefits of cloud-based technologies while providing local control over data access and usage.

Beyond the public sector, Nirav Shah, MD, MPH, Chief Medical Officer, Sharecare, highlighted the creative work of a number of non-governmental organizations and the private sector to move quickly to establish insightful data sets, such as the testing of health systems. sanitation for the COVID-19 virus and using data from smart thermometers to track seasonal flu. He noted: “We see a lot of private companies doing the public health work.”

Another opportunity to create action-oriented insights and results is to move beyond traditional data thinking, including considering new points of data collection made possible by personal technology. “We need to start thinking about ways to capture data outside of our traditional systems. A lot of COVID-19 testing is now happening at home, not in healthcare settings,” said Ethan Berke, MD, MPH, senior vice president and chief public health officer of UnitedHealth Group.

Ultimately, modernizing data systems will be extremely cost-effective for United States. According to Jernigan, this will lead to better preparedness and better health through better forecasting and analysis of epidemics; rapid response to epidemics; link and integrate data from various sources to get more actionable insights; and connect public health and healthcare data to create data clearinghouses while protecting privacy and security.

A full recording of the last summit is available on the summit series website at

The United Health Foundation, the philanthropic foundation of UnitedHealth Group; the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; and The Pew Charitable Trusts provide initial support for the Lights, Camera, Action Summit series. This support is intended to help catalyze action to rebuild trust, foster health equity, and transform our country’s public health system. Others interested in supporting this mission should contact the CDC Foundation at [email protected]

The CDC Foundation is hosting the summit series in conjunction with the Association of State and Territory Health Officials (ASTHO), National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), Big Cities Health Coalition (BCHC) and other public health partners. The first summit in the series focused on building a diverse and strong public health workforce. Two future summits are currently planned, and these focus on effectively funding government public health functions and strengthening public health law and governance to support a modern system (February 23, 2022), with the following summit focusing on catalyzing cross-sectoral partnerships and community engagement (March 2022).

About the CDC Foundation: The CDC Foundation helps the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) save and improve lives by unleashing the power of collaboration between CDC, philanthropies, businesses, organizations, and individuals to protect health, safety and the security of America and the world. The CDC Foundation is the nonprofit organization authorized by Congress to mobilize philanthropic partners and private sector resources to support the CDC’s essential health protection mission. Since 1995, the CDC Foundation has collected over $1.6 billion and launched more than 1,200 programs impacting a variety of health threats, ranging from chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease and cancer, to infectious diseases such as rotavirus and HIV, to emergency responses including COVID-19 and Ebola. The CDC Foundation has managed hundreds of CDC-led programs in United States and in more than 140 countries last year.

About ASTHO: ASTHO is the national non-profit organization representing the public health agencies of United States, U.S. Territories, and Freely Associated States, and washington d.c., as well as the more than 100,000 public health professionals these agencies employ. ASTHO members, the primary health officials of these jurisdictions, are dedicated to formulating and influencing sound public health policy and ensuring excellence in public health practice. For more information, visit

About BCHC: The Big Cities Health Coalition (BCHC) is a forum for leaders of America’s largest metropolitan health departments to exchange strategies and jointly address issues promoting and protecting the health and safety of their residents. . Collectively, BCHC member jurisdictions directly impact nearly 62 million people, or one in five Americans. For more information, visit

About NACCHO: The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) represents the approximately 3,000 local health departments nationwide. These municipal, county, metropolitan, district and tribal departments work every day to protect and promote the health and well-being of all members of their communities. For more information about NACCHO, please visit


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