29 November 2013

Fridays from the Archives: Games Galore

Friday, November 29, 2013: Games Galore

In honor of US Thanksgiving, today's Fridays from the Archives post focuses on a topic many of us encounter before or after turkey consumption: games.

Though your Thanksgiving day gaming interests may be more in the realm of American football, Timothy Dasey's 2011 presentation on EpiDIG shows how virtual games can provide an effective mental workout to supplement the physical. In Using Gaming Tools to Train Disease Surveillance Professionals and Investigate Next-Generation Capabilities, we learn the rationale behind gaming as a surveillance tool. Gaming not only allows people to hone their decision making abilities but it can also be instrumental in developing reaction strategies for events that are rarely seen and therefore difficult to prepare for.

Gaming is not sufficient for ensuring preparedness, but it has substantial potential as another tool in the arsenal of readiness. EpiDIG games are developed to supplement possible weaknesses of traditional emergency preparedness exercises, including a lack of feedback. The ability to simulate, for instance, a food borne disease outbreak, and receive direct feedback to the response and decision-making is extremely valuable to surveillance professionals. Since Dasey's presentation in 2011 MIT Lincoln Labs has continued to develop serious gaming systems and utilize them with public health practitioners (read more).

The full set of slides and recording from Timothy Dasey, PhD (October 27, 2011) can be found in the ISDS Webinar Archive.

This post is part of the series Fridays from the Archives. You can access all posts in the series here.

Written by Becky Zwickl, MPH, ISDS Public Health Analyst (bzwickl@syndromic.org)

22 November 2013

BioSense Testing at 2013 ISDS Conference

The BioSense Redesign team would like to invite you to participate in our one-on-one user testing sessions at the upcoming ISDS conference in New Orleans, Louisiana, on Thursday, December 12, and Friday, December 13, 2013. This invitation provides further details. Thank you for your interest.

The CDC BioSense Program provides local, state, and federal partners a timely regional and national picture of trends in disease syndromes and situation awareness. BioSense has been redesigned by RTI International to shift the program's focus to meet the needs of stakeholders and end users in state and local health departments, CDC programs, hospitals, and other federal agencies (i.e., DoD and VA) to improve regional and national coverage. You can learn more about the Program by watching this brief video: http://vimeo.com/32199430 and visiting the BioSense Collaboration Web site https://sites.google.com/site/biosenseredesign/.

A major part of the redesign is conducting one-on-one user testing sessions with potential BioSense 2.0 users. At ISDS this year, we are focusing on the BioSense 2.0 Collaboration Web site, a resource that provides information about BioSense 2.0 to all interested parties. The results of the testing sessions will allow us to make useful enhancements and updates to the Web site.

By taking part in this evaluation, you have the opportunity to influence the design of the BioSense 2.0 Collaboration Web site. If you are interested in meeting with us, please contact us at BioSense.User@gmail.com and we will work with you to schedule a convenient time.

During the Session:
We will describe real-world scenarios to you and ask you to use the Web site to work through the activities. We’ll ask you to describe your experience as you use the site. In addition, the computer that you use to complete the tasks on the BioSense 2.0 Collaboration Web site will capture data such as time-on-task, navigation of the site, and visual areas of interest that will help us to improve the site.

15 November 2013

Fridays from the Archives: Weather and Surveillance

Friday, November 15, 2013: Weather and Surveillance

Extreme weather events and infectious disease outbreaks have always struck me as being similar; both are highly unpredictable events and outcomes depend on a variety of biological and environmental factors. So, I was excited to see that there may be an interaction between the two when I found Absolute Humidity and Influenza Transmission Dynamics in the ISDS webinar archives.

In this 2010 webinar Dr. Jeffrey Shaman presents his thoughts on how a confluence of meteorological factors can affect the rates of influenza transmission. To set the stage, Dr. Shaman describes an experiment he found through a colleague; results showed that colder temperatures and lower relative humidity favor influenza transmission. He then describes his work in expanding the initial experiment to further explore humidity and temperature effects on influenza.

The meat of the presentation explores two hypotheses. First, that virus-laden aerosols are produced more efficiently at lower absolute (or specific) humidity. The second hypothesis posits that influenza virus survival increases as humidity decreases, which means that that airborne virus is viable longer at a lower humidity.

Perhaps my favorite part of this webinar occurs when Dr. Shaman explores whether or not epidemic influenza onset is associated with changes in humidity in the US. This specific case study of sorts provides real, concrete examples of how weather data may be applicable to public health.

If you are interested in the intersection of meteorology and epidemiology I recommend you set aside 60 minutes to listen to this webinar. A full recording is available here.

This blog post is the third installment of Fridays from the Archives. You can access all posts in the series here.

Written by Becky Zwickl, MPH, ISDS Public Health Analyst (bzwickl@syndromic.org)

13 November 2013

Highlighting the 2013 ISDS Pre-Conference Workshop: Introduction to Mapping for Disease Surveillance

Date: December 11, 2013
Location: Sheraton New Orleans Hotel, New Orleans, LA, USA 
The pre-conference workshops are professional development trainings that take place in coordination with the annual ISDS conference. These community-generated workshops are developed to address the professional needs of the disease surveillance workforce. This year, there are four training options, with 'Track 4: Introduction to Mapping for Disease Surveillance' featured below.


  • David Buckeridge, McGill University
  • Luc de Montigny, McGill University
  • David Kehrlein, Esri, Inc.


This Workshop includes three components: 1) a concise theoretical introduction to Geographic Information Systems (GIS), geospatial data and exploratory spatial data analysis in the context of disease surveillance; 2) hands-on training to use QGIS (a free, open-source GIS) to make maps and con+duct basic geographic analysis using health data; and 3) an overview of ArcGIS, the industry-standard GIS. Note: There may be pre-assignments sent to registrants prior to the Workshop in order to maximize time and to facilitate greater efficiency on the overall flow of the workshop. Additional online resources/tutorials will be provided and are highly recommended for registrants unfamiliar with GIS/mapping.

Learn more.

08 November 2013

FEMA courses in domestic preparedness available for eligible responders

The following message is from Tom Tidwell, Resident Training, East Region Training Coordinator, Center for Domestic Preparedness

The Center for Domestic Preparedness is a member of the Department of Homeland Security, National Domestic Preparedness Consortium, and offers fully funded training for eligible responder disciplines. The attached training schedule has hyperlinks embedded in the “Program Letters” for easy access to the full course information.  If you have any question please don’t hesitate to call or drop me an email.  Please visit our website to learn more about the training we offer.

“If you are a state or local emergency responder, this training is completely funded by DHS at no cost to you or your jurisdiction. We fly you into Atlanta airport, pick you up, transport you to the CDP, and provide all meals and lodging.”

The CDP has officially launched its new Facebook site at www.facebook.com/cdpfema  we are also on twitter https://twitter.com/cdpfema.

            For personnel assigned as Department Chiefs, Operations, Superintendents, Training Officers, or Department Point of Contacts, with the responsibility and authority to schedule personnel for training I can use the “Holding Seat” process to reserve seats for you.  You will need to contact me directly and provide the name, phone number and department of the personnel you are requesting a seat for and if available I will make the reservation.  Applications are still required to be processed through the State SAA’s office for approval however; using this system you will know seats are available for you.  

Resident Training Schedule http://cdp.dhs.gov/training/schedule/

Recommended Training by Discipline http://cdp.dhs.gov/training/discipline/

Accreditation Continuing Education Units http://cdp.dhs.gov/training/accreditation/

Prepare for Training http://cdp.dhs.gov/prepare/travel/

Frequently Asked Questions http://cdp.dhs.gov/faq/

Tom Tidwell
Resident Training, East Region Training Coordinator
Center for Domestic Preparedness
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
U.S.Department of Homeland Security
P.O.Box 5100, 61 Responder Drive
Anniston, Alabama 36205
Phone: 256-847-2082
Toll Free: 1-866-213-9546

04 November 2013

Highlight on 2013 Pre-Conference Workshop: Using R for Disease Surveillance

Target Audience
The target audience of this Workshop is healthcare providers, public health practitioners, graduate students, and researchers.


  • Ian Painter, University of Washington
  • Yevgeniy Elberts, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory


The public health workforce (public health practitioners, healthcare providers, and academicians in research settings) require data, as well as analysis and visualization of that data, to enable and provide informed decision-making, whether clinically-based or policy-based. Continued budgetary restrictions and funding cuts have somewhat hindered the ability to purchase commercial products and applications; therefore, public health has a strong need for exposure to and training with open-source products and tools for data collection, analysis, and visualization. R is a language and environment for statistical computing and graphics. It provides a variety of statistical and graphical techniques, and is extensible (http://www.r-project.org/). As an open-source product, R is freely available, and, thus, optimal for use in a variety of settings. This Workshop is a hands-on training in how to use R for epidemiology, disease surveillance and high-quality data visualizations. Note: There will be pre-assignments sent to registrants prior to the Workshop in order to maximize time and to facilitate greater efficiency on the overall flow of the workshop. Additional online resources/tutorials will be provided and are highly recommended for registrants unfamiliar with the R language and environment.

01 November 2013

Fridays from the Archives: Understanding EMS Data Sources

Friday, November 1, 2013: Understanding EMS Data Sources

With Meaningful Use an increasingly important focus of state- and local- public health agencies, the usual suspects of data sources (i.e., hospital-based) seem to be central to most surveillance conversations. However, other data sources, such as those from EMS (Emergency Medical Services) not only offer unique insight, but may also complement streams of emergency department and hospital inpatient data.

In May of 2010 ISDS hosted a presentation, Understanding the Spectrum of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Data Sources and their Variation by Community, that delves in deep to the specifics of EMS data flow, structure, and use.

For instance, did you know that the approaches to recording EMS calls differs widely? Some dispatch centers use an unstructured process, others use a locally developed structured process, while still others use an international standard for structured data

Once the information is in the system, the presenters describe a number of unique ways in which EMS data can help address the growing problem of ambulance diversions in the United States. In particular, they describe the development of a model that can aid EMS and hospitals in better managing the health of the community by predicting diversions and potentially avoiding them altogether. Additionally, presenters describe some drawbacks of EMS data, such as the obstacles in obtaining subsequent hospital outcome data and the limitations of use when the data is aggregated.

Thank you to Todd Stout, Abey Kuruvilla and Christopher Olola for an interesting and informative presentation. A video recording of the full presentation and copies of the slides are available in the ISDS Webinar Archive at: http://www.syndromic.org/component/content/article/31/250

This blog post is the second installment of the series, "Fridays from the Archives". The first post can be accessed here.

Written by Becky Zwickl, MPH, ISDS Public Health Analyst (bzwickl@syndromic.org)

25 October 2013

Interested in Environmental Health? Register for the Tenth "One Medicine" Symposium!

Date: December 12, 2013
Place: Sheraton Imperial Hotel and Convention Center, Durham, North Carolina

Pesticides from All Sides: A One Medicine Approach to Pesticides
A conference for physicians, nurses, veterinarians, veterinary technicians, public health professionals, environmental health specialists, agriculture professionals, wildlife professionals, and federal, military, state and local government partners.

This year, the Tenth One Medicine Symposium program will focus on the history, regulation, current uses, and impact of pesticides related to human, animal, and environmental health. The program is designed to encourage human, animal, and environmental health professionals to come together to improve awareness and understanding of the topics from a One Medicine perspective and to foster objective, intellectual discussion across disciplines. 

Conference Objectives
  • Describe the history, regulation, and current status of pesticide use as it relates to people, animals, agriculture, and the environment.
  • Describe the intended and unintended effects of pesticides on humans, animals, and the environment.
  • Discuss how the “One Medicine” concept of close cooperation between the human, animal, and environmental health disciplines relates to the uses and effects of pesticides.

For more information including registration details, visit www.onemedicinenc.org or call 919.515.2261.

18 October 2013

Fridays from the Archives: Twitter Data

Did you know that there's a whole archive of past ISDS webinars, easily accessible and searchable by key terms? My new bi-weekly series, Fridays from the Archives, will select one webinar from the ISDS vault and summarize its content.

- - -
Friday, October 18, 2013: Twitter Data

This morning on the bus I found myself mindlessly scrolling through my twitter feed, inspiring my first Fridays from the Archives keyword search of "twitter data". That brought me to the June 28, 2012 webinar, "Application and Visualization of Twitter Data for Disease Surveillance". Presented by Courtney Corley (US), Marcel Salathe (US), and Mark Cameron (Australia), this webinar looked at a variety of details that are integral to effective surveillance using twitter.

In particular, the presentations focused on:

  • Filtering and processing;
  • Analysis; and
  • Presentation of findings.

For me, the highlight of this webinar was seeing the myriad and differing ways in which twitter data was utilized by the three presenters. For instance, Mark Cameron's presentation notes twitter's use in surveillance of the February 2009 Victorian bushfires, whereas Courtney Corley summarized the importance of understanding twitter's unique terminology and presenting data visualizations. Finally, Marcel Salathe described how you can use twitter data as part of a health behavior assessment.

If you're interested in twitter, crowd sourcing, or social media in general, this webinar will provide you with ideas for effectively using new data sources without ignoring potential drawbacks of social media data.

A video recording of the full presentation and copies of the slides are available in the ISDS Webinar Archive (http://www.syndromic.org/component/content/article/29/218).

I hope you've enjoyed this first installment of Fridays from the Archives. Please let me know if you have any suggestions for improving this series!

Written by Becky Zwickl, MPH, ISDS Public Health Analyst (bzwickl@syndromic.org)

17 October 2013

2013 ISDS Award for Outstanding Student Abstract: Awardees

The ISDS Research Committee developed the Award for Outstanding Student Abstract in order to recognize the exemplary work being done by students in the field of biosurveillance.

ISDS is please to announce the 2013 Awardees:
Katherine Harmon, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for the abstract ‘Utilization of Emergency Department Data for Drug Overdose Surveillance in North Carolina.’

Abstract Summary: The United States is in the midst of a drug overdose epidemic, primarily due to opioid analgesics. Emergency department data are an important source of morbidity data for public health surveillance. This population-based study will describe visits to North Carolina emergency departments for drug, and more specifically, opioid overdoses.

Mollie Kotzen, New York University for the abstract ‘Using Syndromic Surveillance to Investigate Tattoo-related Skin Infections in NYC.’
Abstract Summary: Mycobacterium chelonae is not reportable in NYC. To investigate tattoo-associated M. chelonae infections, we used NYC ED syndromic surveillance for case finding and trend analysis. No significant trend emerged from 5 years of ED surveillance data. Thirty-one ED visits for tattoo complications were identified in the five-month period preceding a reported case of M. chelonae. Fourteen patients were interviewed, and were suspected or confirmed with M. chelonae. Syndromic surveillance is an option for case finding when the event under surveillance is described by a unique and specific word or phrase, such as tattoo.

They will present their work at the 2013 ISDS Conference in December.

For more information about the award, please visit the Award webpage.

09 October 2013

2013 Rick Heffernan Award for Public Health Practice Announced: Don Olson

ISDS is pleased to announce that the winner of the first annual Rick Heffernan Award for Public Health Practice is Don Olson. The award was established to honor Rick Heffernan, an early leader in the field of biosurveillance, and founding member and constant supporter of ISDS, who passed away in February 2013. Don has been named this year’s awardee in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the knowledge and practice of biosurveillance. Don has continuously pursued an innovative research agenda that has directly contributed to improving the practice of public health surveillance. His leadership on the DiSTRIBuTE project solidified the ISDS "community of practice," and helped establish the value of a surveillance system that spans jurisdictions. Don has emulated Rick’s support, energy, and enthusiasm for promoting the concept of, and the science behind, distributed surveillance.

Learn more about the Rick Heffernan Award for Public Health Practice here.

04 October 2013

Newly available Stage 2 Meaningful Use Documents

The Stage 2 Meaningful Use Public Health (PH) Reporting Requirements Task Force recently posted helpful resources for Meaningful Use Stage 2 to the PH connect public landing page. These resources, which include Version 2.0 of the Stage 2 MU Public Health Agency (PHA) Readiness Guidance and Stage 2 MU Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), provide important information for anyone who is preparing to implement Meaningful Use requirements.

To access the Resource page: http://www.phconnect.org/group/ph-reporting-task-force

02 October 2013

Highlight 2013 ISDS Pre-Conference Workshop: Public Health Surveillance and Policy Issues for Experts

Date: December 11, 2013
Location: Sheraton New Orleans Hotel, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
The Pre-Conference Workshops are professional development trainings that take place in coordination with the annual ISDS conference. These community-generated workshops are developed to address the professional needs of the disease surveillance workforce. This year, there are four training options, with ‘Track 2: Public Health Surveillance and Policy Issues for Experts’ featured below.
This Workshop will provide experienced public health surveillance professionals with a forum for learning and discussing current topics and policies essential to public health surveillance and an opportunity to collaborate with other experts in the field to develop practical, concrete products and tools. It will include the following: a panel discussion on non-communicable disease surveillance; a series of roundtable discussions, including disaster surveillance/mass gathering response; a follow-up discussion from the 2012 ISDS Conference on (re)defining situational awareness; and break-out sessions to discuss and summarize current policy topics, such as Meaningful Use (U.S.), International Health Regulations (2005), and data sharing. Ultimately, this Workshop is intended to leverage the collective expertise of the group to advance participants' understanding and practice and to allow for a high-quality and seamless translation of the knowledge gained in the Workshop within the participants' organizations.
Learn more about the 2013 ISDS Workshops.

30 September 2013

2013 ISDS Conference Highlight: Submitted Abstracts

ISDS would like to thank all those who answered the call to be a part of the exciting 2013 ISDS Conference program by submitting an abstract for presentation at the upcoming Conference.

2013 Abstract Submission Overview
Abstracts were submitted in four different categories: analytical methods (49 submissions), informatics (53 submissions), policy (15 submissions), and practice (98 submissions). The figure below highlights the keywords of abstracts submitted within each of these categories.

As expected most authors opted to submit for oral presentation (141 abstracts), with 58 submitting for poster, 4 for panel, and 8 for roundtable presentation. New this year, the 2013 ISDS Scientific Program Committee also accepted an additional submission type: lightning talks! These presentation options provide even more opportunity for the community to develop an engaging and relevant program.

Authors from 36 different countries submitted, which is an ISDS record (see map below).
Abstract Review
We are now into the abstract review period. During this time, each abstract will be rated by at least three volunteer reviewers – an exceptional group of experts and seasoned ISDS Conference presenters. Acceptance decisions will be based on judgments of relevance, originality, methodology, and quality. Notifications will be sent to contact authors by October 4, 2013.

To find out more about the 2013 ISDS Conference, please visit: http://www.syndromic.org/annual-conference/2013-isds-conference.

Tera Reynolds, MPH, Program Manager, ISDS

20 September 2013

Save the Date for AMIA's 2013 PHI Working Group PreSymposium!

AMIA's Public Health Informatics (PHI) Working Group is hosting a day-long event focused on "Current and Emerging Issues for Population Health Informatics in Healthcare and Public Health" on Saturday, November 16, 2013 from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm, Washington Hilton, Washington D.C.

Keynote Debate: Public health informatics and population health informatics are one and the same, or not?
by Dr. John W. Loonsk, CGI Federal, and Dr. Jonathan P. Weiner, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health

Last year's PHI PreSymposium had record-setting interest and attendance, with profressionals from healthcare, public health, academia and government sharing ideas and addressing challenges. The 2013 workshop will take the discussion to the next level with a roster of experts from around the nation.

For details and registration information, visit (see WGo2) http://www.amia.org/amia2013/tutorials.

For questions, please contact:

Hadi Kharrazi, MHI MD PhD (Co-chair)
Johns Hopkins School of Public Health
Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
Center for Population Health IT
443.287.8264 / hkharrazi@jhsph.edu

Ashish Joshi, PhD MD MPH (Co-chair)
Center for Global Health and Development
University of Nebraska Medical Center
College of Public Health
402.559.2327 / ashish.joshi@unmc.edu

If you know anyone who may be interested, please feel free to share the information!

13 September 2013

Career Opportunity at the U.S. EPA!

Position: Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) Division Director
Organization: US Environmental Protection Agency
Location: Arlington, VA

EPA's Office of Research and Development (ORD) National Center for Environmental Assessment (NCEA) is seeking an internationally recognized scientific leader to fill its Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) Division Director position.  The IRIS Division Director is responsible for the scientific leadership of the IRIS program and will have substantial hands-on involvement and participation in the scientific assessments and research of the staff. The Director will:
  • Lead the EPA in managing the IRIS program
  • Engage high level decision makers and scientists on human health risk assessments
  • Protect human health and the environment for future generations
Find out more about the position at http://www.epa.gov/ord/htm/jobs_ord.htm.

To apply, send the following information by October 15, 2013:

  • Cover letter (1-2 pages), describing your experience in leading a research program and how your experience relates to the duties of this position
  • Curriculum vitae
  • Names and contact information of three references
  • Citizenship status
  • Compensation requirements 
  • How you heard about this vacancy
Please cite the announcement number RTP-ORD-42-2013-0004 in your application.

Applications should be sent via email to title42@epa.gov or mailed to the attention of Ms. Dorothy Carr, U.S. EPA, HRMD, MD-C639-02, RTP, NC 27711. Electronic submission of application materials is strongly encouraged.  Applications sent via email must be submitted in MS Word, portable document format (PDF), rich text format (RTF), or plain text.  Use of other formats may invalidate your application.

For additional information, Ms. Carr also can be reached at (800) 433-9633.  Technical questions pertaining to this vacancy may be addressed to John Vandenberg at (919) 541-4527.

The U.S. EPA is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

11 September 2013

Have an idea that could overcome a global health challenge? Send a proposal to The Grand Challenges in Global Health Initiative!

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and its funding partners in the Grand Challenges family of grant programs invite you to apply for four new grant opportunities:

1) Grand Challenges Explorations, an initiative to encourage innovative and unconventional global health and development solutions, is now accepting grant proposals for its latest application round. Applicants can be at any experience level; in any discipline; and from any organization, including colleges and universities, government laboratories, research institutions, non-profit organizations and for-profit companies.

Proposals are being accepted online until November 12, 2013 on the following topics:

  • Innovations in Feedback & Accountability Systems for Agricultural Development
  • Inciting Healthy Behaviors: nudge, leapfrog, disrupt, reach
  • Novel Enabling Tools and Models Supporting the Development of Interventions for Severe Diarrhea and Enteric Dysfunction
  • Develop the Next Generation of Condom
  • The "One Health" Concept: Bringing Together Human and Animal Health

Initial grants will be US $100,000 each, and projects showing promise will have the opportunity to receive additional funding of up to US $1 million. Full descriptions of the new topics and application instructions are available at: www.grandchallenges.org/explorations.

2) Achieving Healthy Growth through Agriculture and Nutrition, the first program launched through the Grand Challenges India partnership, is now accepting applications. This program joins others within the Grand Challenges family of grant programs supported by the Gates Foundation and its partners. It seeks a comprehensive set of approaches - spanning innovation in  nutrition and agriculture and social innovation - to 1) reduce the high incidence of low birth weight, early stunting, and wasting in Indian children less than 2 years of age and 2) prevent undernutrition in women of reproductive age and in children from 0-2 years of age.

The application deadline is October 31, 2013. Details on how to apply for a grant can be found at http://www.grandchallenges.org/GrantOpportunities/Pages/GCIndia_healthygrowth.aspx.

3) Records for Life: A Design Contest that can Save Lives. This new grant opportunity seeks individuals or teams to re-examine the current child health record and design new ways to accurately track vaccine doses, increase ease of interpretation and use, and incite behavior change to make the record a valued asset for health professionals and families alike.

The application deadline is October 31, 2013. Details on how to apply for a grant can be found at http://www.gatesfoundation.org/How-We-Work/General-Information/Grant-Opportunities/Records-for-Life-RFP.

4) This October researchers are invited to attend Advancing Vaccines in the Genomic Era, a meeting held as part of the Keystone Symposia Global Health Series supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The meeting will be held October 31 - November 4, 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. More information can be found at http://www.keystonesymposia.org/13T1.

The Grand Challenges team looks forward to receiving innovative ideas from around the world and from all disciplines, so if you have a great idea, please apply. And if you know someone else who may have a great idea, share the message!

Thank you for your commitment to solving the world's greatest health and development challenges.

~The Grand Challenges Team

09 September 2013

Short Course by the Public Health Informatics Institute's Informatics Academy - Register Now!

Back by popular demand, the Public Health Informatics Institute will be offering its popular online short course Designing and Managing Public Health Information Systems: 8 Steps to Success again this fall.

This is an 8-week instructor-supported, distance learning course. It is designed to equip public health practitioners to communicate their information system needs more effectively and participate more fully in information technology projects that support their work. Weekly webinars with the instructors provide participants with the unique opportunity to share experiences and learn best practices from peers.

The course starts the week of October 14th. Course enrollment is limited and registration ends Friday October 4th, so register here now! For more details, check out the course overview and FAQs, or email informatics.academy@phii.org.

06 September 2013

*NEW* ONC Training Course on Interoperability & Public Health

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) recently announced a new 6-part training course on Interoperability and Public Health. 

The course contains lessons on the following topics:

  • Introduction to Interoperability and Public Health
  • Ongoing Submission to Public Health Agencies
  • Submission of Electronic Data to Immunization Registries
  • Submission of Syndromic Surveillance Data to Public Health Agencies
  • Submission of Electronic Lab Results to Public Health Agencies
  • Submission of Electronic Cancer to Public Health Agencies

For more information visit the course website.

04 September 2013

ISDS Works to Improve Inter-Jurisdictional Data Sharing

Sharing public health data and practices among public health authorities enhances local and regional situational awareness and epidemiological capacities. Although technology is a critical medium for data sharing, positive working relationships and trust must come first.
To promote inter-jurisdictional syndromic surveillance data sharing and facilitate skill development among practitioners, a *Regional Data Sharing Workshop* was developed and piloted by ISDS. A non-formal education approach, which stresses self-directed learning and peer-to-peer problem solving, was used to design and plan Workshop activities. The effect of the Workshop on data sharing and participant skills was assessed using quantitative and qualitative methods.
Thirteen surveillance professionals from seven state and local public health agencies, mainly from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service (HHS) Region 5, planned and participated in the 2-day Workshop. The participants selected data sharing for heat-related illness surveillance using BioSense 2.0 as a use case to focus Workshop activities and discussions.
Assessment findings indicated that Workshop participation increased syndromic surveillance data sharing among Region 5 jurisdictions and, furthermore, built new knowledge and skills that advanced surveillance competencies and performance. Survey data showed that 13 new data sharing partnerships are underway or planned as a result of the Workshop. Comparisons of participant responses on a syndromic surveillance skills inventory before and after workshop participation indicated positive gains in skills for:
  • Data processing;
  • Data analysis and interpretation;
  • Communicating syndromic surveillance information;
  • Data quality assurance; and
  • Establishing data sharing partnerships.

The Regional Data Sharing Workshop is an effective and efficient means for promoting syndromic surveillance data sharing and skill development. With the opportunity to collaborate and discuss data sharing in-person for a specific, regionally relevant purpose, participants strengthened inter-jurisdictional relationships, leading to more data sharing and improved skills that benefit syndromic surveillance work. These results present a strong case for repeating similar workshops in other HHS regions in order to build regional data sharing and to improve public health practice nationwide.

03 September 2013

Call for Nominations: Rick Heffernan Award for Public Health Practice

Nomination Deadline: September 16, 2013

The Award
The Award Committee is soliciting nominations for the Rick Heffernan Award for "sustained and outstanding contributions to the knowledge and practice of biosurveillance." This annual award was established to honor Rick Heffernan, an early leader in the field of biosurveillance, and founding member and constant supporter of ISDS, who passed away in February 2013.

Rick was committed to his career as a dedicated public servant in the field of epidemiology. He was a strong, gentle, and exemplary leader who will be remembered as a trusted friend, a deeply valued colleague, and one who was always calm in a crisis. He graduated in 1992 from Columbia University, School of Public Health/School of International Affairs in New York, NY with a Master of Public Health and a Master of International Affairs. From 1992 to 1996 he worked for the New York City Department of Health, first as a Public Health Epidemiologist conducting HIV research and then as Assistant Director of the Bureau of Communicable Diseases. He set up the first Health Alert system to enable the NYC Department of Health to provide timely information to city healthcare providers on breaking public health emergencies. From 1996 to 2001 he was a Ph.D. candidate at Yale University, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, completing all coursework and conducting research on drug resistant infections. During this time he spent a year studying the Ebola virus antibody in northeastern Gabon. In the wake of 9/11, Rick rejoined the NYC Department of Health and was critical to the Department's response to the World Trade Center and anthrax letter terrorist attacks. One of his major accomplishments was establishing one of the first electronic emergency department syndromic surveillance systems in the country. He also led the effort to develop the Communicable Disease Surveillance System, improving the city's capacity to track over 70 infectious diseases. After moving to Madison, WI in 2007 with his family, he continued his work helping to detect, prevent and manage threats to public health, taking the position of Chief Research Scientist Supervisor for the Wisconsin Division of Public Health, Communicable Disease Epidemiology Section. He was an author of numerous scientific journal articles, a board member of the International Society of Disease Surveillance, taught workshops on syndromic surveillance for the annual ISDS conference, and gave numerous presentations in his field of expertise. Since 2007 he served as Associate Faculty at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine & Public Health, and previously served as Adjunct Lecturer for graduate-level courses at Yale University, Division of Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases and at City University of New York, Hunter School of Health Sciences. Rick was also a talented musician and athlete. He was profoundly loved by many, who will miss his warmth and gentleness, his delightful sense of humor, and his big smile.

The award for 2013 will be presented at the ISDS Conference in New Orleans, December 11-13th, 2013.

Any current or former ISDS member may be nominated by a colleague (no self-nominations please). Nominations should be prepared containing the following:

  1. A cover letter from the primary nominator up to one page in length, that describes the major contributions of the nominee to the practice of biosurveillance and her/his impact on the field.
  2. A brief curriculum vitae or biographical sketch of the nominee (up to three pages).
  3. Optional: Up to two letters, of a maximum of two pages in length each, supporting the nomination, from others familiar with the contributions of the nominee. The support letters should describe in specific terms how the nominee has made sustained and outstanding contributions to the knowledge and practice of biosurveillance.
Nominations should be submitted through this online form. The deadline for submitting nominations for the 2013 Rick Heffernan Award is September 16, 2013.

If you have any questions or concerns, please e-mail syndromic@syndromic.org.

Learn more about the 2013 ISDS Conference.

30 August 2013

2013 ISDS Conference Keynote Speakers

ISDS and its 2013 Scientific Program Committee are pleased to announce two world-renown speakers for the 2013 ISDS Conference keynote addresses!

Opening Keynote

David Abramson, PhD, MPH, Deputy Director, National Center for Disaster Preparedness; Assistant Professor of Sociomedical Sciences at CUMC
As Deputy Director and Director of Research at Columbia University's National Center for Disaster Preparedness, Dr. Abramson's areas of study include disaster recovery and resiliency, the social ecology of vulnerability, risk communication targeted at high-risk or elusive communities, and survey research on preparedness attitudes and behaviors. He is the principal investigator of the longitudinal Gulf Coast Child and Family Health Study, an examination of need and recovery among 1,000+ randomly sampled displaced and impacted families in Louisiana and Mississippi (2006-2010), and is Co-Investigator of an NIH study of the impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on children's health. Additionally, Dr. Abramson is leading a foundation-funded effort to identify pediatric need along the Gulf Coast. Other current or recent disaster-related research activities include studies of how US cities recover from disasters, evolving trends in disaster philanthropy, the public health response to Hurricane Irene, and a FEMA-funded "community tabletop" that focused on how well school systems can prepare for disasters. From 2007 – 2010, Dr. Abramson served as an Associate Editor of the AMA peer-reviewed journal, Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness.

Prior to entering the field of public health in 1990, Dr. Abramson worked for a decade as a national magazine journalist, having written for Rolling Stone, Esquire, Outside, and the San Francisco Examiner, among other publications. A former paramedic, Abramson holds a doctorate in sociomedical sciences with a specialization in political science, and a master of public health degree, both from Columbia University.

Closing Keynote

Gary Slutkin, MD, Founder/Executive Director, Cure Violence; Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health
Dr. Gary Slutkin is a physician, epidemiologist, infectious disease control specialist and Founder/ Executive Director of Cure Violence. Recognized as an innovator in violence prevention, Dr. Slutkin sees the issue of violence as fundamentally misdiagnosed and has presented his solution-oriented understanding to the World Bank, the State Department, the World Health Organization, the Institute of Medicine, MIT SaxeLab, Harvard Law School and the National Intelligence Council.

Learn more about the 2013 ISDS Conference here.

26 August 2013

CDC Awards Funding to Support Public Health Surveillance, Disease Detection and Outbreak Response

On Tuesday, August 20, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced an award to states of about $75.8 million through the Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity for Infectious Diseases Cooperative Agreement (ELC). This funding helps states and communities strengthen core epidemiology and laboratory capacity needed to track and respond quickly to a variety of infectious diseases.

Through the ELC mechanism, CDC provides funding to all 50 state health departments, six local health departments, and eight territories or U.S. affiliates. Funds provided through the ELC mechanism help pay for more than 1,000 full- and part-time public health employees including epidemiologists, laboratorians, and health information systems staff. The annual ELC investment provides public health officials with improved tools to respond to more outbreaks, conduct surveillance faster and prevent more illnesses and deaths from infectious diseases.

The funding provided through the ELC cooperative agreement supports surveillance, detection, and outbreak response efforts in many infectious disease areas, including zoonotic and vector-borne diseases, foodborne diseases, influenza, and healthcare-associated infections. Beth P. Bell, M.D., M.P.H., director of CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, stated the significance of this funding in strengthening national infectious disease infrastructure, “With many infectious diseases first identified at the local level, this funding ensures that state health departments are able to effectively prevent, detect and respond to such public health threats.”

This investment by the CDC directly addresses a key recommendation from ISDS’s recently published Sustainable Surveillance paper by giving recognition to public health surveillance as a core public health function. As stated by Scott Becker, MS, executive director of the Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL), even though this year’s allocation is a 4% drop from last year, the small cut in light of sequestration shows how highly we value public health surveillance in the country.

This funding is in addition to $13.7 million that went out through the ELC mechanism in January. More details on state-by-state ELC funding and on CDC’s ELC cooperative agreement are available on the ELC webpage at: http://www.cdc.gov/ncezid/dpei/epidemiology-laboratory-capacity.html

*The above information was adapted from the Press Release by CDC and from CIDRAP News.