We intend a broad reading of the term “public health activities” to include the prevention or control of disease, injury, or disability. We considered whether to propose a narrow or broad scope of public health activities for which disclosure without individual authorization would be permitted. For the reasons described above, we believe that both the general public and individual interests are best served by a broad approach to public health disclosures.
We therefore propose that covered entities be permitted to disclose protected health information to public health authorities for the full range of public health activities described above, including reporting of diseases, injuries, and conditions, reporting of vital events such as birth and death to vital statistics agencies, and a variety of activities broadly covered by the terms public health surveillance, public health investigation, and public health intervention. These would include public health activities undertaken by the FDA to evaluate and monitor the safety of food, drugs, medical devices, and other products. These terms would be intended to cover the spectrum of public health activities carried out by federal, State, and local public health authorities. The actual authorities and terminology used for public health activities will vary under different jurisdictions. We do not intend to disturb or limit current public health activities.