Public Health Informatics

Public Health Informatics is the application of informatics in areas of public health, including surveillance, prevention, preparedness, and health promotion. Public Health Informatics and the related Population Informatics, work on information and technology issues from the perspective of groups of individuals. Public Health is extremely broad and can even touch on the environment, work and living places and more. Generally, AMIA focuses on those aspects of Public Health that enable the development and use of interoperable information systems for public health functions such as bio-surveillance, outbreak management, electronic laboratory reporting and prevention.

Public Health Informatics - PHI is the convergence, out of necessity, of two separate disciplines – information and computer science technology and Public Health practice, research and learning – to create a new paradigm in our ever-expanding digital age.

The primary focus of Public Health Informatics, per the report, is the application of information science technology to promote the health of all populations, not just specific individuals. Public Health Informatics utilizes applications that prevent disease and possible injury by changing the environment or tweaking the conditions that put large groups of people at risk. It does not limit itself to particular contexts such as social, behavioral or environmental; instead, public health informatics considers how to effect prevention at all vulnerable points in the path to disease, disability or injury. And it takes into consideration the governmental context through which public health is practiced.

Because it focuses on the overall population, as opposed to the individual, Public Health Informatics must utilize data from a myriad of sources – including hospitals, law enforcement and social services – while incorporating results from surveys, inspections and more.

As technology continues to evolve, and health care continues to expand, public health informatics has become a vital component, helping providers and government agencies address the changing times and prepare for new and unexpected threats such as antibiotic-resistant infections and chemical and biological attacks.

Such an attack would require immediate detection and analysis of the agent in order for Public Health officials to address the threat and respond appropriately to prevent widespread human harm.