Public health groups get grants for exchange participation

Public health left out of regional exchanges?

Twenty-one state and local health departments and public health institutes have received grants worth as much as $100,000 from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to support their participation in health information exchanges.

Organizations taking part in regional health information organizations often must make financial contributions to start the exchanges. Cash-strapped public health departments often lack discretionary funds that they could invest.

“To protect the public from health threats like a flu pandemic, bioterrorism or chronic diseases, we need to do better at sharing information between public health departments, hospitals and clinics and community health organizations,” said Stephen Downs, the foundation’s senior program officer, in a statement. “Health care providers have been leading the way in the use of information technology, and it is our goal to help public health agencies apply their ideas and expertise to IT solutions to improve the public's health.”

The foundation, based in Princeton, N.J., has launched a program, called InformationLinks, to accelerate the use of IT by state and local health agencies.

The foundation awarded the grants after reviewing the proposals submitted by health departments in September. Its announcement states that some of the grantees would work on health information exchanges that focus on specific health issues, such as newborn screening or immunization registries.

According to the InformationLinks Web site, the program is designed as a one-time, short-term stimulus for public health agencies to participate in health information exchanges. The grants are for one-year projects.

About half the grants went to states and the other half to cities and counties.

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