Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Strengthening Public Health

CDC awarded $49 million in grants to all 50 states to improve the quality of healthcare and to strengthen the public health infrastructure. The grant funding is to be used to strengthen state, local, and territorial health department’s capacity to perform critical epidemiology and laboratory work, to detect and prevent healthcare-associated infections, and to support immunization programs.

Of the grants awarded, $35.8 million in Prevention and Public Health Fund dollars and $3.8 million in additional CDC funding will go to increase epidemiology, laboratory, and health information systems capacity at health departments in all 50 states, two territories. Six of the largest local jurisdictions include cities such as Los Angeles and Philadelphia.

Almost $9 million will be used to enable the states to prevent Healthcare-Associated Infections (HAI), which leads to nearly 100,000 deaths every year. Funds will help states coordinate their HAI prevention activities, implement multi-facility, multi-disciplinary prevention efforts, improve the monitoring of antimicrobial use, and to enhance electronic reports of HAIs.

To see the list of grantees, go to

To make better use of data, New York State’s Department of Health (DOH) has launched the “METRIX” project to improve access to data assets. The Department of Health collects data and maintains a multitude of unique datasets that touch on all aspects of healthcare. While some of these datasets are limited in scope and permissible use, others have many potential applications and collectively represent an immense untapped resource to improve public health.

One area where public health can play a role involves understanding the clustering of chronic disease risk factors. Examining the clustering of risk factors and the extent to which socio-demographic characteristics account for shared variance among modifiable health behaviors can help provide an integrated approach to chronic disease prevention. Understanding the risk factors would also help public health officials address disparities in the health of this population.

The goals are to increase transparency of government with improved access to DOH data assets, identify high priority areas where analytics support the state’s health reform strategy, make data assets available for research purposes, expand policy analysis and research by using key data in public health services delivery areas, and contribute findings to the scientific evidence base to improve public health and the delivery of healthcare services.

METRIX will be delivered in stages. During the first phase, DOH will share a number of datasets previously not available to the public through the department’s web site. These data sets to be made available include:

• Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System designed by CDC to monitor risk behaviors and other factors contributing to the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in the population

• Cancer Mapping publishes maps showing cancer counts for small geographic areas along with certain facilities regulated by the state Department of Environmental Conservation

• Healthy Neighborhoods Program seeks to reduce the burden of housing-related illnesses and injuries with health departments implementing programs in selected high-risk target areas

• Adult Tobacco Survey developed by the NY Tobacco Control Program in partnership with RTI surveyed the non-institutionalized adult population of the state aged 18 or older. A National Comparison Survey was also developed

• Nursing Home Weekly Bed Census as required by DOH to complete electronic filings on each facility’s licensed nursing home beds and have the information available by bed category on a weekly basis

Phase Two will entail releasing a “Request for Interest” (RFI) to gather feedback on the METRIX goals from researchers, evaluators, and funders. The responses to the RFI will help the Office of Public Health provide additional RFIs to be used by other DOH offices.

The release of potential Phase Two databases will include the State Immunization Information System, Pediatric Nutrition Surveillance System, Student Weight Status Category Reporting System, and the State Early Intervention System.

Phase Three will entail releasing a Request for Application (RFA) to obtain specific answers to questions of interest to not only DOH but to external stakeholders. Answers are needed to determine costs, access, utilization, operational efficiency, measurement and improvement, and ways to identify opportunities to use public health to improve clinical care.

For more information, email