Public health informatics training program announced

first_imgJun 8, 2005 (CIDRAP News) – A new program to provide training in the use of informatics to enhance disease detection and other public health functions is being launched with the help of a $3.68 million grant from a private foundation, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced today. The grant will support program development at the training sites along with stipends, tuition, and other expenses for trainees, the NIH said. See also: The National Library of Medicine (NLM) will administer the grant. Training will be done at four institutions that already have informatics training programs supported by the NLM: Columbia University, the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, the University of Utah, and the University of Washington. The programs are scheduled to begin Jul 1, the NIH reported. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) has awarded the grant to train students in public health informatics, defined as the practice of integrating computer technology for managing information to enhance the work of public health professionals and others, the NIH said. “Informatics can help us make a huge impact on pubic health through disease surveillance,” said Charles Friedman, PhD, the NLM’s leader of the training initiative, as quoted in the news release. “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.” Jun 8 NIH news releasehttp://www.nih.gov/news/pr/jun2005/nlm-08.htmlast_img read more

Pew report critiques Salmonella outbreak response

first_img The PSP’s findings and recommendations are based on an extensive view of outbreak-related public records, including those of the Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and congressional hearings. The authors of the 32-page report said in a press release that their goal was to frame questions for public health officials who will review the response to the outbreak, a probe that congressional leaders and produce industry representatives have requested. The PSP is based at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. Problems with coordination and capacityAnother shortcoming that came to light was a lack of organization, capacity, and coordination that hurt the effectiveness of the outbreak response, the PSP authors report. They state that their review of the outbreak raises questions as to whether public health agencies shared data in a timely manner and whether poor communication between the agencies could have delayed the identification of peppers as the vehicle for Salmonella contamination. At a House subcommittee hearing on the Salmonella outbreak in late July, David Acheson, MD, the FDA’s associate commissioner of foods, said that the FDA, in proposing its Food Protection Plan last fall, asked for 10 specific legislative authorities, according to a previous report. Of those, “probably the one that’s most important is the one that requires preventive controls [in food production and processing]. That’s absolutely critical across the board,” he said. Jim O’Hara, director of the PSP, said in the statement that the problems identified in the report are nothing new. “Many of these problems have been identified for years by expert body after expert body,” he said. “If we pass up this opportunity to learn from this most recent outbreak, we will keep repeating the same costly mistakes—for public health and industry alike.” However, the document also notes that the FDA’s attempts to enact produce safety regulations as part of its 2007 Food Protection Plan, using its existing authority, have been ignored by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Problems with coordination and capacity showed up in the CDC’s epidemic curve (“epi curve”), the report maintains. When the FDA issued its nationwide advisory about tomatoes on Jun 7, officials originally reported that 145 people had been infected at that time, but the epi curve they issued later showed that more than 800 people—55% of the outbreak total—had illness onsets before that date. Also, the CDC acknowledged that the delays in reporting cases were a sign that response capacity was strained. According to the report, state public health departments acted quickly to respond and inform the CDC, but the CDC could have acted more quickly to inform the FDA, which is responsible for leading multi-agency and trace-back investigations. Also, big, multistate investigations such as the S Saintpaul outbreak reveal a disconnect between the epidemiological and trace-back efforts. Nov 17 Produce Safety Project press release Who has power to mandate produce safety?During the outbreak, FDA officials said mandatory safety controls for produce were needed, but they were waiting on Congress to give them the authority. However, the PSP report says the FDA has used its existing statutory authority before to set Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) regulations: in 1995 for seafood and in 2001 for juice. The report says the FDA has also proposed on-farm safety measures for shell eggs. Nov 17 Produce Safety Project reporthttp://www.producesafetyproject.org/admin/assets/files/0015.pdf The epi curve showed a normal bell shape, which suggested that the FDA’s interventions could have been too late or off target, the authors write. See also: The PSP authors write, “The lack of federal action has resulted in a patchwork-quilt approach to fresh produce safety. Moreover, federal inaction may well be eroding public confidence in the safety of the food supply.” Mixed and confusing messagesIn reviewing the public health messages that came from various agencies during the outbreak, the authors concluded that messages were frequent but inconsistent, pointing toward a need for officials to establish risk-communication strategies before an outbreak occurs. For example, a lack of detail about early case clusters hampered the tomato industry’s efforts to determine if there was a connection between illnesses and tomato distribution patterns. Nov 18, 2008 (CIDRAP News) – This past  summer’s nationwide Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak exposed several gaps in the nation’s food safety system, including poor organization and confusing risk communications, the Produce Safety Project (PSP), an initiative of the Pew Charitable Trusts, said in a report yesterday. O’Hara called on the incoming Obama administration to make mandatory, enforceable safety standards for fresh produce a food-safety priority and to take steps to fix the nation’s broken outbreak response system. “Both actions will go a long way toward safeguarding public health and protecting farmers,” he said. “Because these investigations are conducted by two separate agencies, they tend to be treated as separate processes rather than being seen as two sides of the same coin, needing significant integration,” the report states. As another example, the report says that the CDC changed the way it graphically portrayed outbreak information at several points during the outbreak. “It is troubling that this determination was not made beforehand; it might have minimized the confusion and frustration experienced by state officials, the produce industry, and consumers,” it states. The outbreak, first reported in early June, sickened more than 1,400 people and badly hurt the fresh-tomato industry before authorities determined several weeks into the trace-back investigation that tainted jalapeno and Serrano peppers were the culprits. Jul 31 CIDRAP News story “State models cited as ways to improve outbreak response”last_img read more

Bermuda urged to remove ban on same-sex marriage

first_imgBritish legislators have expressed disappointment that the Bermuda government is backtracking on marriage equality and has urged the British Overseas Territory to withdraw legislation banning same-sex marriage.United Kingdom disappointedBritain’s Minister of State at the Foreign Office, Sir Alan Duncan said the United Kingdom was “disappointed” by the Bermuda parliament’s decision.  Opposition Labor parliamentarian Chris Bryant called on Bermuda’s Premier David Burt and Home Affairs Minister Walton Brown to withdraw the legislation banning same-sex marriages.A decision by Britain to overrule Bermuda’s attempt to ditch same-sex marriage would be “an exceptional step”, the House of Commons heard on Monday night.Sir Alan said a number of UK Overseas Territories had moved to introduce same-sex marriage, but that Britain had no plans to impose it on its Overseas Territories.Sir Alan was speaking during a House of Commons adjournment debate on Bermuda’s 2017 Domestic Partnership Act, which was passed by the House of Assembly and Senate last month. The controversial legislation is designed to replace same-sex marriage with watered-down civil partnerships.Bermuda Governor John Rankin has yet to give his royal assent to the bill.Same-sex marriages have taken place in Bermuda since the Supreme Court ruled in May last year that it was discriminatory to deny gay couples the right to wed.last_img read more