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December 15, 2016

Podcast: Whatcom County’s journey toward becoming an informatics-savvy health department

Nicole Willis of Whatcom County presents on building informatics capacity at her agency at the poster session of the 2016 CSTE annual conference.

After undergoing the accreditation process in 2014, the Whatcom County Health Department had renewed interest in and commitment to being data-driven. But what did that mean, exactly? Strategic planning activities highlighted opportunities to use data for decision-making, but how could this health department get the right information to the right people at the right time?

In this episode, I speak with Nicole Willis, an epidemiologist at the Whatcom County Health Department, who led the agency’s efforts to build its informatics capacity. Nicole explains how the agency first learned of informatics, and the steps the agency took to become more informatics-savvy. The story of their work provides concrete examples of how this local public health agency started to build its informatics capacity. Nicole discusses their efforts to connect with fellowships, build a cross-agency team, complete an informatics self-assessment, and finally, create an informatics unit at the agency. Nicole also shares lessons learned throughout the process and some possibilities for where Whatcom County’s informatics work is headed in the future.

I’m very grateful Nicole was willing to share her experiences on our podcast, and we hope they will be helpful to other health departments as well. If you’re interested in building the informatics capacity at your agency, below is a list of resources Nicole and her team used in the early stages of their process.

For additional training resources, Nicole and her team used resources available from the Informatics Academy at the Public Health Informatics Institute and the Northwest Center for Public Health Practice.

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