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Wednesday, June 8, 2005


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$3.68 Million Grant to Boost Public Health “Informatics”
New National Library of Medicine and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Partnership Will Develop More Public Health Information Experts

Bethesda, Maryland — Without strong systems for gathering, using, and sharing information, federal, state and local public health offices cannot adequately detect disease outbreaks, notify the public of emerging health problems or promote sound health practices. Recognizing the importance of this issue, the National Library of Medicine (NLM) will administer a $3.68 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to develop tomorrow’s public health leaders in the science of public health informatics.

Public health informatics is the practice of integrating state-of-the-art computer technology for managing knowledge and information to enhance the work of public health professionals and others. The Foundation for the National Institutes of Health will receive the money from RWJF. The National Library of Medicine, a part of the National Institutes of Health, will administer the grant program. NLM has a longstanding history of training the country’s biomedical informatics researchers and professionals.

The program funds educational training sites at four universities — Columbia University, the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, the University of Utah, and the University of Washington. Students at the sites will receive training in basic information science and public health principles, focused preparation in applying informatics to public health problems, and on-site experience with public health agencies. All four sites currently host informatics training programs supported by NLM, and the new public health program, which begins July 1, 2005, will build on this existing base of experience.

“The health of our communities is threatened if we cannot effectively analyze and share critical information among public health agencies, hospitals and community health providers,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A., president and chief executive officer of the RWJF. “This collaboration will help prepare new leaders to be the architects of sophisticated information systems that can help public health officials respond to emergencies and save lives.”

Graduates of the program are expected to pursue a variety of career tracks. Some will enter directly into governmental public health agencies, while others will conduct research and train future generations of public health information professionals.

The grant will support program development at the selected training sites as well as stipends, tuition and other trainee expenses. “In this day and age, no public health agency can work in isolation,” said Donald A.B. Lindberg, M.D., director of the National Library of Medicine. “Through this program we will help put information sharing at the center of efforts to connect all public health agencies.”

“Informatics can help us make a huge impact on public health through disease surveillance,” said Charles Friedman, Ph.D., senior scholar and leader of this initiative in the NLM Division of Extramural Programs. “By integrating health data from a range of sources — including hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies — and applying sophisticated analysis tools, we’ll be able to detect disease outbreaks early, potentially saving lives and preventing an enormous amount of suffering.”

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans.

The Foundation for the National Institutes of Health was established by the United States Congress to support the mission of the National Institutes of Health — improving health through scientific discovery.

The National Library of Medicine, the world’s largest library of the health sciences, is a component of the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

University Contacts:

Columbia
Marilyn Castaldi, Chief Communications Officer
mlc2120@columbia.edu
212-305-3900

Hopkins
Gary Stephenson, Associate Director for Media Relations
gstephenson@jhmi.edu
410-955-5384

Utah
Christopher Nelson, Health Sciences Public Affairs
christopher.nelson@hsc.utah.edu
801-581-7387

Washington
Pam Sowers
sowerspl@u.washington.edu
206-685-4232


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