EHT1102: Applied Informatics Practices for
Environmental Health Programs
Speaker: Jeff Ditty
The application of informatics practices, resources, and
tools for improving environmental health programs is a critical activity for a
modern environmental health unit. This session will focus on informatics
concepts such as business processes and requirement definition, available
information sources, and examples of available tools that can be incorporated
into your environmental health programs for improving performance, service, and
The ever evolving and increasingly available nature of
technology and information sources exponentially increases the potential for
public and environmental health organizations to improve service levels and
health outcomes for their communities. Incorporating and applying sound
informatics practices, an often undeveloped or under-developed activity in many
organizations, is critical to most effectively harness the power of information
for environmental health programs.
- Identify and Define Information Needs
Many opportunities exist to apply concrete informatics practices to shape
how environmental health programs use information and data. The first
step involves identifying and defining the information needs for an
individual program: documenting business processes, identifying process
inputs and outputs, and translating this information into business
requirements. These requirements define the information needed, inform
how to apply it to the program, and assist in decisions for information
collection and analysis. Practice and established methodologies for
performing these activities will be discussed.
- Gather the Information
Deceptively simplistic in concept, the challenge of gathering the required
information or data to use in any environmental health program can often
be the most difficult process. Information sources can include
organizational data systems, web services, RSS feeds, health information
exchanges, and geographical information systems, to name only a few.
Different data sources and their relationships to environmental health
programs will be discussed.
- Query and Analyze for Decision Making
Once the information is in hand, the next step involves asking questions,
getting responses, and analyzing the information to inform decisions. A
variety of available tools, including free and commercial desktop
applications as well as enterprise solutions, can support this process.
Examples of these tools and how they can be applied to leverage data
sources will be discussed. By using the tools and techniques that meet
identified requirements, programs can apply defined information or data to
assist in measuring or monitoring activities such as performance
indicators, emerging threats, and program evaluation.