Making a Powerful Connection: the Health of the Public and the National Information Infrastructure. 9.2 Federal Agencies


Following the charge of the Vice-President, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) should work closely with those in the public/private sectors who record and use health information to:

  • identify and disseminate current "best practices" for ensuring health data privacy and security;
  • assist in the development of model state laws that protect the privacy of individually-identifiable health data while preserving the usefulness of these data to support population health;
  • adopt uniform standards for health data collection/transmission to and from all federal agencies, and assure that these standards serve the needs of those who record and collect health information and those who use these data for health-related purposes; and
  • assure that health information systems under development in the federal government have the flexibility to accept data in the forms proposed for emerging vocabularies and classification systems.

Building on current activities, the Public Health Service should:

  • move forward with Performance Partnership Grants to enhance state flexibility, foster accountability for improving population health, and permit states to use federal grant funds to support logically integrated public health information systems;
  • encourage public health participation both in the expansion of the UMLS into a broad-based health vocabulary and in the large-scale UMLS testing project currently being planned by NLM and AHCPR;
  • educate potential users and developers of health information systems about the power of using the UMLS vocabulary for recording health information;
  • encourage classification system developers to use the UMLS as the foundation for their work and to develop classification systems that serve public health and health systems research purposes;
  • work with the broad public health community to highlight the importance of the NII to public health and to identify ways to promote applications to population-based public health;
  • promote understanding of the NII through CDC's Information Network for Public Health Officials (INPHO) and the Public Health Training Network (PHTN), its educational network;
  • include public health applications of the NII on the agenda of all PHS/DHHS information policy groups;
  • disseminate this report widely and generate related articles for appropriate professional journals;
  • publicize existing graduate medical informatics training programs and fellowships to public health professionals and encourage them to apply; and
  • form a strategic partnership between CDC, state and local public health associations, NLM, and the National Network of Libraries of Medicine to train state and local public health officials in the use of currently available information resources that are applicable to public health.

HPCC/NII funding agencies should:

  • publicize funding opportunities for Internet connections, demonstration projects, etc. through channels that will reach public health professionals (such as association member services); and
  • design funding programs that will encourage collaboration between public health entities, health care organizations, medical informatics researchers, and the commercial sector.