Building an Informatics-Savvy Health Department
Data and information have always been critical to the public health mission and operation. Receiving, managing, using and sending digital data, however, requires a level of informatics capabilities that many health departments are still struggling to define and build. This means that public health agencies need a clear informatics vision and strategy that includes workforce development and robust, interoperable information systems.
But first, what do we mean by “informatics” and an “informatics-savvy health department”? We define public health informatics as the discipline that supports the effective use of information and information technology to improve public health practice and population health outcomes. It is seen as critical to the future capability—and even credibility—of health departments.
We define an informatics-savvy health department as one which has three core elements:
- An overall vision and strategy for how it uses information and information technology as strategic assets.
- A skilled workforce.
- Well-designed and effectively used information systems.
By focusing on these three core elements, the self-assessment was developed to enable planning and priority setting to identify where your agency falls on a continuum. It will highlight current strengths upon which you can build, as well as areas that are candidates for improvement. The two articles from the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice serve as supplemental resources that can help guide decision-making.