Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Public Health Part of The Informatics Research Grid

Hello all --As an observer and occasional contributer to the blog, I have been fascinated the daily activities and impressed with the progress that has been made to this date. When this was dreamed up several months ago, my initial feeling was that we were going to prove that we were overly ambitious and somewhat crazy in the inital PoC's. While we all still may be crazy, I can say I see vast potential a Public Health Grid might have. To that end, I extend a "job well done" to the collective team.

And now I raise a challenge: with all the cool techie stuff that is going on, with all the innovation and collaboration we are fostering, with all the teaching and learning from each other, I still am not sure we have made the case that this is the right thing for Public Health (as an industry) or the Public's Health (as a population). "So what" is a question that we will soon have to answer - constantly.

I am optimistic that we can answer this challenge. The next PoC activities are much more programmatic in nature. We are going to investigate tools that could make public health information management as secure, reliable, and easier than is currently being done (via the PHIN MS PoC). We are going to examine how to connect instances of a widely used biosurveillance application to other biosurveillance tools so that state and local public health departments can maintain data for their purposes, but also share information efficiently across jurisdictions, borders, and political boundaries (the RODS PoC). Finally, we will investigate how services can serve other programmatic interests from integration / interoperability (via natural language processing) to specific public health case reporting (via specialized services). It is through these projects that "so what" becomes "ah -ha"!

I encourage blog posters - from developers to programmatic folks like myself -- to keep "so what" in mind, and to address that question specifically in each blog post, no matter how small or techically deep the post may be. What will the problem you are solving mean to public health? What does that tweak of the integration service or deployment script or presentation layer mean to a public health user or system administrator. Those are the people we need to help, and I know we can.

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