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Centers of Excellence in Public Health Informatics (P01)

In FY 2005, CDC awarded two centers of excellence in Public Health Informatics to institutions of higher education.  In FY06, an additional three centers were awarded by NCPHI and OPHR, bringing the total to five centers of excellence.  These Centers contribute to the efforts of CDC’s Public Health Informatics program by advancing the ability of health care professionals to communicate health recommendations to consumers, and by making the use of electronic information systems easier.  They seek to improve the public’s health through discovery, innovation, and research related to health information and information technology.  The goal of the initiative is to develop interdisciplinary approaches to: (1) electronic health record support of public health functions; (2) use of health care, population and other public health data in supporting public health systems and analyses; (3) basic capabilities that support public health practice such as statistical and health surveillance; and (4) public health decision support.

Individual funded projects include:

UW Center of Excellence in Public Health Informatics - Mark Oberle, MD
University of Washington

The UW Center of Excellence in Public Health Informatics (CEPHI) grant funds a multidisciplinary research program consisting of two public health informatics research projects, 1) "Surveillance Integration and Decision Support" investigating public health surveillance and epidemic detection methods, plus three supporting cores. 2) "My Public Health," a customizable digital knowledge management system designed to provide rapid access to answers from a variety of key resources. The Center of Excellence at the University of Washington focused on information integration using informatics methods. The project “Surveillance Integration and Decision Support” developed a database of public health surveillance data elements, and prototype web pages for disease reporting.  A second project “My Public Health:  A Customizable Knowledge Management Repository System for Prevention: Design, Development, and Evaluation” conducted interviews with public health officials, and generated a matrix of health information resources.
Project Abstract


Karras BT, Bliss D, Lober WB, Horn S, Lindquist S, Information Collection SSIC-GeoCodes for urban to rural mixed environments, Advances in Disease Surveillance

Lober WB, Drozd D, Lumley T, Sebestyen K, An Open Source Web Services Toolkit for Event Detection Algorithms, Advances in Disease Surveillance 2006;1:78

Revere D, Bugni P, Fuller SS. A Public Health Knowledge Management Repository that Includes Grey Literature.Publishing Research Quarterly 2008;23(1) To appear in
Special Issue on Grey Literature 2008.

Revere D. Invited Panel: Open Source and Public Domain Options for Web Based Data Dissemination Systems. CDC Annual Conference on Assessment Initiative. Aug 2007.

Revere D, Turner AM, Madhavan A, Rambo N, Kimball AM, Bugni P, Fuller SS. Understanding the information needs of public health practitioners: a literature review to inform design of an interactive digital knowledge management system. J Biomedical Informatics 2007;40(4):410-21.


Enhancing Public Health through Electronic Medical and Personal Health Records - Richard Platt, MD, MSc
Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Inc.

The focus of this Center of Excellence in Public Health Informatics is to leverage Electronic Medical Record (EMR) and Personally Controlled Health Record (PCHR) technologies to create and evaluate scalable information infrastructures for three-way information interchange among individuals, health care providers, and public health authorities. The Center was funded to pursue two driving scientific projects. The projects are built over a three-way communication paradigm for secure, targeted public health information interchange. All communication between parties occur using PHIN standards, and privacy and security are maintained throughout the system. The Center of Excellence at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care successfully engineered, tested, and deployed an operational version of a system called “Electronic medical record Support for Public health” (ESP). The ESP project is a promising model for leveraging electronic medical health record data to improve the completeness, accuracy, and clinical detail of notifiable disease reporting. The Center also made major advances in “Personally Controlled Health Record” (PCHR) architecture; models for PCHRs in networked health information exchanges have been established, involving department of public health. It has also successfully used a peer-to-peer design for distributed public health queries to establish a linkage with the Massachusetts regional health information organization; and maintained a relationship with the public health informatics committee of the national Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE). 
Project Abstract


Kohane IS, Mandl KD, Taylor PL, Holm IA, Nigrin DJ, Kunkel LM. MEDICINE: Reestablishing the Researcher-Patient Compact. Science. May 11, 2007 2007;316(5826):836-837.

Fine AM, Nigrovic LE, Reis BY, Cook EF, Mandl KD. Linking Surveillance to Action: Incorporation of Real-time Regional Data into a Medical Decision Rule. J Am Med Inform Assoc. March 1, 2007 2007;14(2):206-211.

McMurry AJ, Gilbert CA, Reis BY, Chueh HC, Kohane IS, Mandl KD. A self-scaling, distributed architecture for public health, research, and clinical care. J Am Med Inform Assoc. April 2007.


JHU/APL Center of Excellence in Public Health Informatics - Joe Lombardo, PhD
Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

APL’s Center is one of five funded by CDC to conduct research leading to major scientific advances in public health informatics. The JHU/APL COEPHI consists of three core projects each containing subprojects. The projects are: 1) Collaborative Research with CDC, other CDC National Center For Public Health Informatics (NCPHI) Centers of Excellence (CoE), and/or other Researchers; 2) Creating Public Health Situational Awareness Through The Use of Data Collected for Health Care; and 3) Information Sharing for Public Health through a National Healthcare Network. In 1998, the Special Applications Branch of the Lab’s National Security Technology Department began work on an automated disease surveillance system, now known as the Electronic Surveillance System for the Early Notification of Community-based Epidemics (ESSENCE), which compiles data such as emergency room visits and over-the-counter drug sales to look for early recognition of patterns that could indicate the outbreak of a disease. ESSENCE was widely used in the D.C.-area immediately following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Currently the system is being used in the National Capitol Region, composed of the District of Columbia (D.C.), Maryland, Virginia and the seven counties surrounding D.C. Many regions across the nation have set up advanced disease surveillance systems in response to threats of bioterrorism, and part of the new Center’s efforts will look at ways to expand and connect those systems into networks so they can work synergistically. The center envisions a public health network where information can be exchanged across the country and among regional partners to improve our surveillance capacity. Finally, the Center will look into ways to improve the way information is presented to the epidemiologists who use these systems. The Center has already received funding, for a three-year project entitled "BioSense Initiative to Improve Early Outbreak Detection." Under this grant, researchers from APL and the University of Maryland, led by Principal Investigator Howard Burkom of APL, will work with CDC personnel to advance technologies associated with near real-time reporting, automated outbreak identification, and analytics. Source:
Project Abstract


Lombardo, JS and Buckeridge, DL. Chapters 3 and 5 in Disease Surveillance, A Public Health Informatics Approach, John Wiley and Sons, ISBN 978-0-470-06812-0, April, 2007.

Hashemian, M Advanced Querying Features for Disease Surveillance Systems, AMIA 2007 Spring Congress, Public Health Informatics Track, May 22, 2007.

Sniegoski, C, Standardizing Chief Complaint Subsyndromes for Syndromic Surveillance, AMIA 2007 Spring Congress, Public Health Informatics Track, May 23, 2007.

Lombardo, J. Overview of The Johns Hopkins University APL Center of Excellence in Public Health Informatics, 2007 AMIA Spring Congress, Public Health Informatics
Track, May 23, 2007.

Mnatsakanyan, Z. Decision Support System Architecture for Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory Center of Excellence in Public Health Informatics
Initiative, 2007 AMIA, Spring Congress, Public Health Informatics track, May 23, 2007.

Loschen, W, Event / Communication Component of a Regional Disease Surveillance System, 2006 PHIN Conference, September 25-27, 2006.

Loschen, W, Event Communication in a Regional Disease Surveillance System, 2006 Syndromic Surveillance Conference, October 19-20, 2006.

Loschen, W, Moving From Data to Information Sharing in Disease Surveillance Systems, 2007 AMIA Spring Congress, Public Health Informatics track, May
23, 2007.


NYC Center of Excellence for Public Health Informatics – Farzad Mostashari, MD
NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

The overall goals of the New York City Center of Excellence in Public Health Informatics are to develop, disseminate, and demonstrate: 1) A Personal Health Record that incorporates public health priorities and cognitive research to empower patients in improving their preventive care; 2) An electronic clinical decision support system that incorporates public health priorities and epidemiologic data to empower clinicians in providing better preventive and acute care and; 3) An electronic health information exchange from clinical information systems that improves public health surveillance of antibiotic resistance and emerging health issues. Two key projects are funded: Project A: "The Model EHR for Public Health" and Project B: "Public Health Reporting". Project A will explore the feasibility and utility of incorporating public health priorities and epidemiologic data into clinical decision support tools. It will also implement and evaluate the effectiveness of clinical decision supports informed by epidemiologic data, such as communitywide illness patterns (syndromic surveillance), local antibiotic resistance patterns (from Project 2), and age/gender/neighborhood- specific rates of smoking, problem drinking, and depression (from the Community Health Survey). Project B will assess the utility of structured and unstructured EHR data for syndromic surveillance using natural language processing, and will also build on the infrastructure developed for regional health information exchanges to pilot non-mandatory, de-identified public health reporting. Source:
Project Abstract


Hripcsak G, Bamberger A, Friedman C. Fever detection in clinic visit notes using a general purpose processor (abstract). Fifth Annual Syndromic Surveillance
Conference; 2006 September 19-20; Baltimore, MD: International Society for Disease Surveillance, 2006.

Sengupta S, Hripcsak G, Mostashari F, Calman N. (in press) A model for expanded public health reporting in the context of HIPAA. J Am Med Inform Assoc.


Research Center of Excellence in Public Informatics - Matthew H. Samore, MD
University of Utah

The University of Utah is one of the three new centers the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has awarded in public health informatics to study how the public health system can better prepare and respond to communicable disease outbreaks and other public health problems. Improving the way health information is reported by numerous sources and then analyzed by public health officials will be a major focus of the center. One Project: “Information, New Technology Exchange for Rapid Action, Compliance and Treatment (INTERACT)”, of the COE's initiatives, led University of Utah pediatrics professor Carrie Byington, M.D., will tackle the problem of inefficient communication between clinicians and public health workers. Tracking and profiling epidemics is difficult because of the piecemeal way information is collected and reported. This COE project will test a system for electronic communication designed to facilitate reporting and reduce response time to vaccine-preventable diseases, such as whooping cough. The other project: “Decision Support for Infectious Disease Epidemiology (DSIDE)” will address how the public health system responds to new communicable diseases such as avian flu and West Nile virus and how epidemiologists use information for public health decision making. With the aid of computer scientists and mathematicians at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute and University of Michigan, the University of Utah researchers will develop tools for timely, accurate tracking and analysis of disease surveillance data. As part of the project, they'll use computer simulations of the Wasatch Front population to look at the demographics, lifestyle, and ways a disease could be transmitted within that group of people. Source:
Project Abstract


Porucznik CA, et. al. Time to poisoning death among users of prescription methadone. Poster session presented at 40th Annual Society for Epidemiologic
Research Conference, Boston, MA.

Sobek, Adam D. Methods for comparing space-time paths. Abstract presented at AAG, 2007.

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Page last reviewed: March 31, 2008
Page last modified: July 22, 2008
Content source: Office of the Chief Science Officer (OCSO)