Public Health Informatics is defined as the application of information, computer science, and technology to public health practice, research, and learning. Public Health Informatics(PHI) focuses on data from groups of people, or a population, rather than a single individual. PHI is generally divided into three steps or processes, the collection,the storage, and the analysis of data that is relevant to the health of the general public.

PHI Data collection
The collection of PHI data and other useful resources has proven to be difficult with most of the data prior to "Age of Computers" being written down on paper records, rather than electronic records. If all PHI's were on a computer system, it would make things much easier for not only doctor's offices but for other healthcare facilities and organizations to transfer and share information with each other. PHI is studied by large groups or firms, most of them being at either the state or local level. Most of the research done towards the advancement of PHI is done at county health departments as well as state departments. Storing data in a public health database is another difficult issue. Among the many problems, the main problem is the inconsistency of reliable data, or data quality assurance. Knowing whether or not the information is reliable enough to store in the database is tougher than it sounds. With the internet being what it is today, internet security as well as privacy being more and more difficult to protect, it is not particularly an ideal environment to store all kinds of private information about millions of people. However, the internet is the only resource that everyone would be able to access, so some kind of equilibrium must be reached.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has made a free online message board system, the NEDSS base system. The CDC is one of the top groups in their effort to modernize PHI's in the world of healthcare. However, there are also several complications that can arise through the process of collecting data. One main issue is different healthcare procedures in different parts of the world. Procedures vary from office to office, making it difficult to organize data when it is all scattered and indifferent. Another issue in collecting data is a lack of resources. Not every office across the world has top of the line equipment, many of them are very old and out of date. Many offices do not have the funds to update their equipment and technology, consequently it makes things more difficult on both the patients and office staff.

Information Technology
Analyzing PHI's requires the some of the most complicated and intricate analysis tools. The Geographic Information System(GIS) is among one of the many systems used to gather and analyze data and detect for any trends within a geographic location. The GIS is not only used in PHI, but may also be used in criminology, history, and sales and marketing.

At the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, the Public Health Informatics and Technology Program Office (PHITPO) focuses on advancing the state of information science and applies digital information technologies to aid in the detection and management of diseases and syndromes in individuals and populations. The three sub-unit within PHITPO include Informatics Practice, Policy and Coordination; Informatics Solutions and Operations; and Informatics Research and Development. The bulk of the work of public health informatics in the United States, as with public health generally, takes place at the state and local level, in the state departments of health and the county or parish departments of health. At a state health department the activities may include: collection and storage of vital statistics (birth and death records); collection of reports of communicable disease cases from doctors, hospitals, and laboratories, used for infectious disease surveillance; display of infectious disease statistics and trends; collection of child immunization and lead screening information; daily collection and analysis of emergency room data to detect early evidence of biological threats; collection of hospital capacity information to allow for planning of responses in cases of emergencies. Each of these activities presents its own information processing challenge.

One important system in PHI is the CDC's Public Health Information Network (PHIN), managed by the National Center for Public Health Informatics (NCPHI). The PHIN offers a outline to improve the capacity of public health to use and exchange information electronically by encouraging the use of standards and defining technical requirements. By using the information exchange systems, the NCPHI offers a number of programs such as biosurveillance, outbreak management, national notifiable disease surveillance, and communities of practice. The Biosurveillance program combines data from over 1730 hospitals across the nation, to enhance national situational knowledge by real time disease detection and monitoring. The Outbreak Management program assists public health workers in the management of outbreaks by enabling the combination of data on demographics, case investigations, laboratory studies, and other factors related to an outbreak. The National Notifiable Disease Surveillance program is a state based system that facilitates exchange of data between public health, laboratories, and clinical providers about conditions designated as nationally notifiable. The Communities of Practice program promotes teamwork by gathering public health organizations together to solve and share health related issues. Another program linked with PHIN is the National Environmental Public Health Tracking Network (EPHT). The CDC funds heath departments in sixteen states and one city to build local tracking networks.

PHI Worldwide
Public health professionals have historically been early adopters and proponents of health information technologies to ensure accurate awareness of the health of often large and disparate groups. Countries have invested in electronic disease surveillance systems and other web-based disease-reporting methods to facilitate the collection of public health data. However, health information systems throughout the world continue to be fragmented, lacking in coherence and in their ability to support decision making by health workers or the monitoring or related quality improvement by health policy makers. In developed countries, an information divide exists between the clinical systems that support health care and the public health systems that drive prevention.

In 2008, the CDC created the Global Public Health Informatics Program (GPIP) to help aid countries supported by the CDC. Their goals are to advance best practices in informatics science, principles, strategies, and standards to improve public health systems. The GPHIP is positioned within the CDC’s Center for Global Health in the Division of Public Health Systems and Workforce Development. The GPHIP works together with organizations of public health and other internal and external associates to develop and carry out creative ideas to solve public health challenges. By creating and having standard data management tools and services, the GPHIP works with organizations to create effective health care systems that correspond to a standard of data collection, analysis, reporting system, and storage. This will help countries to use a universal information management system to improve local disease response and public health surveillance. The GPHIP is also the home of a World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Public Health Informatics (WHO CC) and works together with global associates to develop and carry out advanced informatics solutions and best practices.

-Public Health Care Agencies
-Academic Institutions
-Emergency Room Threats


-Health Informatics
-Biomedical Informatics
-Healthcare Informatics


The image above illustrates the break down of Public Health Informatics in the community.

external image scope.gif
The image above illustrate's the steps made by the CDC to advance best practices in informatics science, principles, strategies, and standards to improve public health systems.