Yasnoff et al(2000)stated that effective public health requires timely, accurate, and informative information from a wide variety of sources. Not surprisingly, public health professionals have been among the earliest users of computers , other information technologies from which numerous and useful computerized information and surveillance systems have been developed(Yasnoff et al, 2000).A more systematic and informed approach to the application of information science and technology needs to be utilized in order to take full advantage of its potential to enhance and facilitate public health activities(Yasnoff et al, 2000).
However, O’Carroll et al(2002)defined public health informatics as the systematic application of information and computer science and technology to public health practice, research, and learning. Public health informatics is primarily an engineering discipline and a practical activity ungirded by science and oriented to the accomplishment of specific tasks(O’Carroll et al, 2002).
How informatics impact or improve public health?
The scope of public health informatics includes the conceptualization, design, development, deployment, refinement maintenance, and evaluation of communication, surveillance, information, and learning systems relevant to public health(O’Carroll et al, 2002). Using strategies and standards, practitioners employ public health informatics tools and training to maximize health impacts at local, state, and national levels(CDC, 2006).They develop and deploy information technology solutions that provide accurate, timely, and secure information to guide public health action(CDC, 2006).
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Public health informatics involves the application of knowledge and practice from numerous disciplines that contribute to public health(O’Carroll et al, 2002).Advances in public health informatics resulted in public health innovations and added value to interventions by providing the capability for more timely detection of health problems and more complete and efficient health communications (CDC, 2006). Surveillance is an aspect of public health that can be dramatically transformed by the application of information technology(Yasnoff et al, 2000).
How public health informatics is different from medical informatics?
The primary focus of public health informatics is on the applications of information science and technology that promote the health of populations while the primary focus of medical informatics is on the health of specific individuals who presents with a specific disease or condition requiring diagnosis and treatment(O’Carroll et al, 2002).
A primary focus of public health informatics is on the applications of information science and technology that prevent disease and injury by altering the conditions that put populations of individuals at risk while whereas medical informatics is on the application of information science and technology for the treatment of individuals who already have a disease or high risk conditions(O’Carroll et al, 2002).
Prevention approach in public health informatics is not predetermined by professional discipline, but rather by effectiveness, expediency, cost, and social acceptability of intervening at various potentially vulnerable points in a causal chain whereas medical informatics preventive interventions is within the context of each professional discipline with focus on one or a few points in the causal chain(O’Carroll et al, 2002). Public health informatics is not restricted to particular social, behavioral, or environmental contexts whereas medical informatics is restricted to clinical and surgical encounters(O’Carroll et al, 2002).
Public health informatics involves operation within a governmental context requiring responsiveness to legislative, regulatory, and policy directives whereas medical informatics involves operation through private practices, clinics, hospitals, with governmental direction primarily in terms of quality assurance (O’Carroll et al, 2002).
O’Carroll, P,W; Yasnoff, W, A; Ward, M,E; Ripp, L,H; & Martin,E;L.(2002).Public health informatics and information systems. Springer.
Yasnoff, W, A; O’Carroll, P,W; Koo, D; Linkins, R, W; & Kilbourne,E;M.(2000).Public health informatics: Improving and transforming public health in the information age. Journal of Public Health Management Practice Vol 6(6); p67-75.
CDC(2006).Informatics and public health at CDC. MMWR Vol 55(SUP02); 25-28. Retrieved from http//www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/su5502a10.htm
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Week 1: Introduction to Informatics in Public Health – Discussion
It was not until 1988 that efforts by the Institute of Medicine described public health with a working definition that outlined its mission, components, and core functions, as a result, the focus began to shift from medicine and treatment of disease to public health and its goals of prevention and health promotion (Schneider 2006). As noted by O’Carroll (2003), with public health reform, an increase in managed care and the revolution of new technology, public health professionals increased the need of public health informatics forcing the transition of traditional methods of information storage to the development of technological software.
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Prior to the emergence of public health as a discipline, medical informatics was employed in various healthcare institutions. Hasman and Haux (1996) described medical informatics as discipline that intersects information science, computer science, and health care to address the storage, retrieval, and use biomedical information for problem solving and decision making. To keep abreast of an ever changing technological society, public health informatics emerged. O’Carroll, 2003 noted that public health informatics is defined as “the systematic application of information and computer science and technology to public health practice, research and learning” (p5). According to O’Carroll (2003), it is different from medical informatics because it focuses on populations, disease prevention, preventative interventions, and governmental operations.
Informatics is now a discipline that is increasing being integrated into the field of public health. The National Center for Public Health Informatics (NCPHI), for example, is one of the national centers of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Started in 2005, the NCPHI in composed of five divisions and seeks to use information technology to aid in surveillance, outbreak response, and laboratory reporting and other aspects of public health. The goals of the center is to enhance monitoring and research and increase real time access to health information. The National Centers for Public Health Informatics although a fairly new have several tools in place to maximize access to health information (CDC 2009). The use of informatics of found throughout the field of public health.
With the development of new technology, public health informatics seeks to further incorporate new software to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of the collection, analysis, and reporting of public health information. To fully embrace the impact informatics can have on public health O’Carroll (2003) claimed that education and training is imperative to decrease the sense of inadequacy among public health professionals and promote the widespread implementation of public health informatics as a discipline.
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