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.

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