Building Informatics Capacity Through Workforce Development

Sarah Chughtai, MPP

Program Analyst, Informatics

On Monday June 23rd, NACCHO’s Informatics Team collaborated with the Public Health Informatics Institute (PHII) on a webinar “Building Informatics Capacity Through Workforce Development”. The webinar featured speakers, Deb Bara from PHII and Lisa Silverman from NACCHO. The purpose of the webinar is to inform the public health community on challenges posed by informatics workforce development activities at local health departments (LHDs). These activities include recruitment, hiring, training, and retention of informatics professionals. The webinar included a discussion of the common challenges that health departments face recruiting Informatics professionals. The discussion topics encompassed areas related to establishing competitive salaries, finding a professional with the appropriate skill set, and distinguishing between Information Technology (IT) and Informatics positions in regards to skills, knowledge, and abilities.

Deb Bara began the session by posing a question to the audience on the challenges public health departments are facing hiring Informatics professionals. Deb addressed the challenges above and also spoke about the difficulties in creating position descriptions, for example, educational requirements needed for a certain salary grade. Many health departments struggle with finding academically trained individuals to fill those positions. As mentioned earlier, a common topic of difficulty is distinguishing between IT and Informatics positions to potential job seekers.

Deb spoke of a human resource concept “paramount knowledge”. Paramount knowledge refers to determining how one position is distinct from another position. Human resource professionals need to consider the most important subject-matter knowledge that is needed to perform the duties of the position. In addressing the difference between IT and Informatics, Deb used a conceptual framework developed by Marty LaVenture at the Minnesota Health Department. IT focuses on technology, it is the science of computation, its paramount knowledge is derived from computer science, and the objective of the area is to provide well-designed, functional and maintained technology. Informatics focuses on information, people, and processes. It is the science of information and its paramount knowledge is derived from several disciplines such as business, policy, biomedical data, and public health. The objective of Informatics is to improve processes that support a skilled workforce.

Lisa’s presentation focused on the objectives of inter-professional education (IPE). Lisa is on the Workforce Development Team at NACCHO and is part of Project SHINE. The purpose of Project SHINE is to strengthen applied epidemiology and informatics capacity in health departments by maintaining a public health informatics fellowship program, increasing Informatics mentorship at public health departments, and developing workforce competency. Lisa explained the competency areas which are teams/team work, communication, roles/responsibilities, and values/ethics. During the chat discussion with the audience, Sharefa Aria from Tarrant County Health Department, explained the importance of having organizations like NACCHO provide resources to health departments on techniques they can employ to improve workforce development. Sharefa also discussed the importance of mentoring junior informatics staff to help pave a better future for them not only in their health department, but also the public health community.

The webinar provided great insight into workforce development issues local health departments are facing, especially regarding the intricacies for hiring Informatics professionals. The presentation fostered conversation among the speakers and representatives from health departments on issues they are experiencing in the field and how organizations like NACCHO and PHII can better assist public health departments across the country in this capacity.

If you would like to view the webinar, please click the link below.




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