Public Health Informatics - Overview  

ACC's Expertise in Public Health Informatics

One major area of ACC's focus is in the employment of public health informatics approaches to address the public health challenges of our times. Public health informatics (PHI) may be broadly defined as the application of computer or information technology to enhance public health practice, research, and community services. This field directs attention to the employment of existing databases (secondary) coupled with the collection of primary data and the application of specialized presentation methods to offer both the investigator and the audience the most effective analytical tools. As described in our portfolio, one important area of our experience includes health service research methods using spatial and temporal analysis and Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

Responding to Health Disparities

One of the overarching goals of Healthy People 2010 proposed by the CDC is to reduce health disparities. Health disparities exist in different geographic locations, at different point or duration in time, and by various demographic subgroups (e.g., by age, gender, racial or ethnic groups). ACC is specialized in detecting and visualizing the effect of health disparities by the above characteristics, and link the detected problems to policy solutions.

By convention, the understanding of health disparities is often expressed by mortality or morbidity rates by its time duration in a broad political jurisdiction. Recent analytic methods have enabled researchers to further examine health disparities by demographic subgroups, at different duration of time, at certain geographic jurisdictions, and by certain relative risk - spatial and temporal analysis. This is a powerful statistic analysis of health disparities. ACC is specialized in detecting spatial and temporal trends of potential health disparities if any, and determine whether health clusters occurred in the past, up to the present time, and whether they are statistically significant.

Further evidence of ACC's team experience is illustrated by its list of projects in areas pertinent to reducing health disparities. These include: HIV/AIDS, cancer prevention and detection, surveys and focus groups in the improvement of health surveillance systems, enhancing health programs (such as the community based participatory report program, screening for chronic diseases and smoking cessation), community health assessment, program implementation and evaluation. Our team has experience with more than 50 research contracts/grants in health preparedness & response for federal, state, and county health agencies in health disparities and smoking cessation, and have more than 60 peer-reviewed publications and presentations. We are specialized in translating complex research results into improvements in public health practice, providing forecasting and modeling, training, consultation and evaluation for most activities relating to public health informatics.

ACC's expertise lies in the streamlining the data collection, storage, analysis and presentation process. We analyze data to draw meaningful results, and to earn actionable knowledge.

Public Health Preparedness and Response

Lessons learned from recent disasters, regardless of natural or human-made, have demonstrated that information play a key role in health preparedness and response, in communicating risk and assistance to needy communities, and reducing avoidable lose of property and lives. Health surveillance systems for addressing emergency needs should be in place to provide data-driven, scientifically-sound logistic solutions of health data collection and reporting, and extend evidence-based knowledge support when needs arise. Evidence strongly suggests that most communities are inadequately prepared!

Emergency health preparedness and response, a major public health concern, has been a significant focus of ACC. State and local governments are acutely, or should be, aware of their specialized needs to better understand and respond to health emergencies. Examples of ACC's team experience, provided within this website segment, include:
  • Needs assessment (community assets, hazards, transportation, hospital surge capacity, health care providers, population characteristics, etc.),
  • Training for addressing major steps of emergency management: including Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery, as well as the implementation of a responsive process.

Based on our previous research findings, specific information needs in public health preparedness include:
  • Conduct needs assessment. There is an expressed need for needs assessment in various vulnerable communities, to identify community assets, hazards, transportation, hospital surge capacity, health care providers, population characteristics, etc. The acquired needs assessment data will serve as a basis for useful information, and translated into actionable knowledge.
  • Develop a comprehensive database to include up-to-date list of assets, hazards, volunteer pool, and health information kits, health care providers who can provide culturally and linguistically appropriate care, and risk communication channels that vulnerable communities can use. Based on our previous studies many state medical examiner's offices maintain physician databases that are either outdated or incomplete - some had a third of the information incorrect. This should be improved.
  • Develop a special need registry to serve as an emergency information system. Vulnerable populations could self-register. This system should be able to receive calls/emails, distribute information, and respond to situations in a declared emergency.
  • Improve Risk communication for diverse communities: Maps are an important tool for disseminating information, such as community assets, health providers, community resources, evacuation plans and can be a powerful tool for risk communication for residents with limited English ability. We are experts in maximizing the utility of maps in communicating risk through mapping to present various parameters of preparedness and response, and diverse populations.

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