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Joint Letter to Congress Requesting Additional $450 Million for Data Modernization in Next COVID-19 Package

Jul 23, 2020 | Ian Goldstein

This letter from NACCHO and other public health partners requests an additional $450 million in the next COVID-19 supplemental package for the Data Modernization Initiative. It also requests Congress include robust language in the next COVID-19 supplemental in support of data modernization at CDC and local and state health departments.

Our members have been on the ground fighting the pandemic and working to protect the public’s health since its onset. We are grateful to Congress for providing $500 million in funding in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act for CDC’s Data Modernization Initiative (DMI) in March. Four months later, as the pandemic surges, we renew our request for at least $450 million in the next COVID-19 supplemental package for the DMI. This will fund the foundational request of $1 billion for the DMI and will provide an essential and immediate injection of resources that must be built on yearly through robust annual funding. To properly route this critical investment, we also ask Congress to include robust language in the next COVID-19 supplemental in support of data modernization at CDC and local and state health departments. We are grateful that both chambers of Congress have acknowledged that authorizing and funding CDC data systems modernization is an indispensable component of public health and pandemic response. Language to authorize activities to improve the public health data systems at the CDC was included in H.R. 6800, the Heroes Act, and similar language was included in S. 1895, the Lower Health Care Costs Act, when it was introduced in the Senate last year.

The nation faces an unprecedented challenge to address the global COVID-19 pandemic and a responsibility to create an infrastructure that is capable of responding to future public health emergencies. Now, more than ever, it is critical for CDC to have a strong national public health surveillance system that detects and facilitates immediate response and containment of emerging health threats. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed deadly gaps in our nation’s public health data infrastructure. The United States currently relies on error-prone, sluggish and burdensome manual and paper-based data exchange methods such as faxing and phone calls to share critical public health data. Simply put, the virus is moving faster than the data. We are watching as our leaders struggle to make critical decisions without accurate data. We must bring our public health data system into the 21st Century to have accurate, instantaneous data at our fingertips rather than just out of reach. This funding will build on existing infrastructure to support a public health surveillance system that provides automatic, enterprise, interoperable data exchange in real-time, enabling a coordinated and timely response across the health care system. With these investments, we will give sophisticated data analytics tools to public health professionals and policymakers to make smarter and faster decisions that save lives during public health threats like COVID-19.

COVID-19 has made it clear that our antiquated public health data systems are not up to the task. We need an integrated, high-speed, networked health system—from laboratories to health care facilities to public health authorities—with fast and reliable data in order to protect Americans from health threats. Modernization is not just network upgrades; it is a commitment to building a world-class data workforce and data systems that are ready for the next public health emergency. Significant investments must be made to build real-time, automated, electronic, enterprise public health data systems. As the two chambers negotiate a final package, please include language authorizing and providing $450 million in funding for the DMI in the next COVID-19 supplemental—American lives depend on it. We look forward to working with you as we continue to address this global pandemic. If you have questions or need further information, please contact Erin Morton at emorton@dc-crd.com.

Sincerely,
Association of Public Health Laboratories
Association of State and Territorial Health Officials
Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists
Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society
National Association of County and City Health Officials
National Association for Public Health Statistics and Information Systems


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About Ian Goldstein

Ian Goldsmith is the Government Affairs Specialist at NACCHO.

More posts by Ian Goldstein

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