Monthly Archives: September 2012

Making Ideas Grow in Every Community – A Brief Summary of the Social Good Summit for Local Public Health

A powerful, engaging, and global conversation took place at the 2012 Social Good Summit in New York City (September 22-24). The deeper message behind the projects, initiatives, and innovations, was to become engaged in something greater than yourself to make a change in this world. Now more than ever before, as local communities within this broader global context, we’re at a better place to engage in innovative solutions for problem solving. The Summit was a collaboration of Mashable, United Nations Foundation, 92Y, United Nations Development Programme, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Ericsson.

Local health departments need to keep up with today’s technologies but also prepare for the challenges and opportunities that tomorrow brings. Some of these stories show how cost-effective solutions can come about in low resource settings. I hope to inspire you with these stories and move you to develop new initiatives in your community.

While you read these stories, consider how similar ideas can be initiated in your community.

  • What resources are needed?
  • What kind of public-private partnership should you look for? Which organizations should you approach?
  • What kind of business plan should you create?

Unleashing The Power Of Open Innovation In Government
Todd Park, U.S. Chief Technology Officer, the White House

A highly energetic Todd Park, shared his role and responsibility by focusing on these three primary tasks:

  • Make new data available to the public;
  • Take already available but unusable data and make it usable;  and
  • Make entrepreneurs and innovators aware of the government data.

Park said “You take the data that’s already there and jujitsu it, put it in machine-readable form, let entrepreneurs take it and turn it into awesomeness.”

As a result of his initiatives at both HHS and now the White House, Park has inspired developers to create “…products or services helping tens of thousands of people improve their health service experience around the country.”

For more information visit

Video link:

Can Mobile Phones Eliminate Pediatric AIDS?
Josh Nesbit, CEO, Medic Mobile
Anu Gupta, Director in Corporate Contributions, Johnson & Johnson
Robert Fabricant, Vice President of Creative, Frog Design

The answer to the above question? “No,” said Josh Nesbit, it isn’t the device that will end it but the people using the mobile device that can.

According to Nesbit “A billion people will never see a doctor in their lives, but 90% of the world’s population is covered by mobile.”  He followed to say, “50% of the people in Sub-Saharan Africa own phones.”

His organization’s efforts have already seen results in initiatives in India. Vaccination coverage has gone from 60% to 90% coverage.

An interesting example he shared was of a $15 camera device that can take holographic pictures to remotely analyze blood samples. That in itself shows how far a mobile device can go to support areas with no clinics and health services.

For more information on Nesbit’s organization,

Video link:

How Google Earth is Changing the World
Rebecca Moore, Engineering Manager, Google Earth Outreach & Earth Engine Google, Inc.

We all have our preference in search engines, but most people know how far Google has gone to create innovations beyond just simple searches.  Rebecca Moore shared examples of Google Earth Outreach. Now you ask, what is this service? Google Earth Outreach provides tools to nonprofits to help raise awareness, increase decision-making and engage stakeholders.

This service provides free versions of the following tools but advanced, fee-based versions are available as well: Google Earth; Google Earth Engine; Google Maps Engine; Open Data Kit; Spreadsheet Mapper; Custom Maps for Google Maps; Google Fusion Tables; Google Maps API; Google Street View; and Google Map Maker.

How are these services helpful to public health?

Researchers are constantly making discoveries through Google Earth. For instance, scientists discovered a rare type of Coral Reef on the remote shores of Australia. The area was scheduled for oil mining, and once the discovery was made the plans for drilling were stopped. Moore explained how Google Earth enables users to tell a story. For example, the effects of coal mining that includes mountain top removal, which results in debris in communities and subsequent health risks. The localities, especially those indicated sensitive locations on the map, like schools and hospitals can then be mapped to better understand the direct health risk to the community. This Google tool combined with public health knowledge and urban planning can help spur community activism to fight against activity that poses dangerous health risks to the population.

Can your health department use this tool to tell a story?

Video link:

Shrinking the “Digital Divide”: The Future of Mobile
Larry Irving, Co-Founder, Mobile Alliance for Global Go

Being connected with a purpose was the message that Larry Irving delivered along with needing to focus on outcomes.

Mobile connectivity is changing lives and providing promising solutions to tough problems. Although, as Irving said, “This is the most important device ever for changing the world, but we have to work together to make it work the way we want it to work.” Solutions are hard according to Irving, but his advice was that, “You’re talking about changing business models. You’re talking about changing cultures. You’re talking about changing operational models. And we have to sit down together and figure out how this is going to work.”

His advice for mobile optimization is:

  • Hackathons should focus less on solely about a technology and instead focus on how technology can help fill gaps in society and social needs;
  • Bring investors and entrepreneurs to the table; and
  • Celebrate individuals and groups that are making social good happen with mobile solutions.

Video link:

Digital Disaster Relief
Wendy Harman, Director of Social Strategy, American Red Cross
David Kobia, Director of Technology Development, Ushahidi
Samantha Murphy, Mashable

Responding and being aware of disastrous situations is indeed a hard job. That’s why the American Red Cross is expanding its services by giving the public a seat at the table. Wendy Harman said this has two components: 1) aggregating big data for situational awareness 2) building a digital volunteer task-force. I recently participated in one of their social media trainings as part of their volunteer task-force and believe that they are moving in the right direction to create a larger digital presence. By leveraging their Digital Operations Center and the use of digital volunteers, they can extend their services through multiple platforms in a new way. To learn more about the American Red Cross’ Digital Operations Center, read here.

Ushahidi stands for “witness” in Swahili. It is an open source project which allows users to crowdsource crisis information to be sent via mobile. David Kobia said that the open source platform allows for data to be visualized on a map, showing stories of different occurrences during crises.  For more information,

Can local health departments use such tools to visualize important data in their communities?

Video link:

Using Mapping Technology to End Polio
Nicole Newnham, Documentary Film Maker & Writer, The Revolutionary Optimists
Linord Moudou, Anchor & Reporter, Voice Of America
Sherine Guirguis, Communications Specialist, UNICEF

Why is it so important now more than ever to end polio? “If we don’t finish polio now, it will come back,” says Sherine Guirguis. Now we’re closer than ever to eradicate this disease and with support of technology, we’re coming closer to ending it.

Map Your World, is a multi-platform project that puts the power of new technologies into the hands of young change agents, enabling them to map, track, and improve the health of their own communities – and then share their stories of change with each other and with the world. A young group of children called the Daredevils of West Bengal, made their mission to increase polio vaccination in their community (due to a personal story of a child they knew who died of polio). Using paper megaphones and going door to door these children advocated for vaccination. Their tracking only went so far, but with the help of documentary film makers they were able to adopt an open source technology that enables them to keep track of their progress.

How can we engage our communities and target major health issues by creating low cost innovative tools?

Video link:

Part 2: How is Health IT Impacting Public Health Case Management?

Installment 2: The ‘state of the art’ of Case Management

When asked, local health departments (LHDs) report overwhelmingly that case management is a service that is universally provided at the local health department level.  Of course there are many types of case management – Women and child health, TB, STD, HIV, Diabetes, Elder Care, Social services, etc.  In each of these examples, there are services that are provided and ‘case managed’ by the health department and there are services that are provided and ‘case managed’ by other entities.  However, care coordination is the key to success.  In this age of electronic health records, new ways of electronic messaging and managing care are cropping up and have the potential to improve efficiency and in return improve outcomes.


Today, case management often starts behind and struggles to catch up to what the client is experiencing.  The client may receive care and be referred to case management or become eligible for case management by diagnosis and the referral can take hours to a month to get to the public health case manager.  It can then take precious time and resources to find the client and encourage them to take advantage of the resources the case manager has to offer – resulting in missed opportunities for help.


However new technologies are coming along to change this picture.  In Olmsted County Minnesota, (part of the MN ONC Beacon Community Project) public health case managers are electronically connecting at the point of care.  So a patient could leave the emergency room and at that moment, the local public health case manager is informed electronically of the visit and given some summary as well.  This electronic connection makes the public health case manager a member of the care team – bringing a community focus to the point of care that has been absent in most communities.  This allows the public health case manager to impact the plan of care and connect the client to community resources when they are needed.

In support of this emerging trend, The Public Health Informatics Institute (PHII) has, with NACCHO’s assistance, partnered with local public health case managers to develop a requirements document for case management.  This document is useful in two ways: 1) It looks across case management types for commonalities and best practices and can be used to improve local case management programs; 2) It can provide a unified view of requirements for vendors to use when building systems that will support and enhance case management.  This document can go a long way to building consensus among local public health case managers about how an electronic case management support system should support their work.  Once there are agreed upon standards and requirements, vendors will have incentive to sell products to this new and growing market.

So what should I do?

NACCHO would love to hear your comments and stories.  How have you utilized technology to support case management?  What successes and/or challenges are you having?  What can we do in order to promote and improve this area of important local public health work?

How is Health IT Impacting Public Health Case Management?

Installment 1: What is Public Health Case Management?

Let’s be clear about what public health case management is.  The Case Management Society of America, a non-profit association dedicated to the support and development of the profession of case management, defines case management as:

“a collaborative process of assessment, planning, facilitation, care coordination, evaluation, and advocacy for options and services to meet an individual’s and family’s comprehensive health needs through communication and available resources to promote quality cost effective outcomes.”

How detailed does Public Health Case Management Get?

1)  You must understand that there are different levels of case management – from keeping track of meta-data about a case to involving a case manager in someone’s life.  On the least extreme, case management may simply be tracking that a case received proper treatment according to latest treatment guidelines – never actually interacting with the patient or client.

2)  On the other extreme, the case manager understands patient or client medication schedules, work issues, transportation needs, and other personal issues, while working to get those needs met in order to improve that patient or client’s outcome for the condition or issue under management.

Traditionally this spectrum of case management has been managed with lots of paper –


However, with the health IT revolution underway, there are many new and exciting developments you should be aware of and hopefully taking advantage of.  In our next installment of this 2 part blog post, we’ll delve into the state of the art of Public Health Case Management.

Public Health Informatics – Then and Now

Welcome to the ePublic Health Talks blog! Thanks for joining us for our first post. We hope you will learn something new and share it with your colleagues. Your feedback is greatly appreciated and helps us improve the content of our blog. Please leave us a comment.

In this video, Dr. David Ross of the Public Health Informatics Institute gives a historic review of public health informatics and the vision he created 17 years ago. Dr. Ross gives sound advice on planning for the technologies of the future while learning from the past.