Podcast: Whatcom County’s journey toward becoming an informatics-savvy health department
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.
- DeSalvo, Karen B., Patrick W. O’Carroll, Denise Koo, John M. Auerbach, and Judith A. Monroe. "Public Health 3.0: Time for an Upgrade." American Journal of Public Health 106, no. 4 (2016): 621-22. doi:10.2105/ajph.2016.303063.
- LaVenture, Martin, Bill Brand, David Ross, and Edward L. Baker. “Building an Informatics-Savvy Health Department: Part 1, Vision and Core Strategies.” Journal of Public Health Management Practice 20, no. 6 (2014): 667-669.
- LaVenture, Martin, Bill Brand, David Ross, and Edward L. Baker. “Building an Informatics-Savvy Health Department: Part 2: Operations and Tactics.” Journal of Public Health Management Practice 20, no. 6 (2014): 667-669.
- “Building an Informatics-Savvy Health Department: A Self-Assessment Tool,” Public Health Informatics Institute, accessed November 23, 2016. http://phii.org/infosavvy.
- "The High Achieving Governmental Health Department in 2020 as the Community Chief Health Strategist," RESOLVE, accessed June 15, 2016. http://www.resolv.org/site-healthleadershipforum/files/2014/05/The-High-Achieving-Governmental-Health-Department-as-the-Chief-Health-Strategist-by-2020-Final1.pdf.
- “Foundational Public Health Services: A new vision for Washington State,” Washington State Department of Health, accessed November 23, 2016. http://www.doh.wa.gov/Portals/1/Documents/1200/FPHSp-Report2015.pdf.
- “Operational Definition of a Functional Local Health Department,” National Association of County and City Health Officials, accessed November 23, 2016. http://www.naccho.org/uploads/downloadable-resources/OperationalDefinitionBrochure-2.pdf.
- The Informatics Training in Place (I-TIPP) Fellowship that Nicole completed was part of Project Shine.
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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