It’s NACCHO average conference

(ok, so its N-AY-CCHO, not N-AH-CCHO, but we couldn’t resist)

We had a busy, busy time at PHI. Kicking off the week on Monday evening, we hosted a mixer with our partners (and awesome friends) J Michael Consulting. Tacos and margaritas go hand in hand with catching up with folks we haven’t seen in months.

Next we presented a poster both Tuesday and Wednesday and had awesome attendance. After a minor snafu with our poster orientation (missed that memo, whoops!) the PHI team got us set to rights (thanks again to the staff who saw our clear distress and put up some alternate poster boards). After that we were off and running! Thanks to everyone that stopped by to chat and picked up a card or a brochure to follow up.

And to round off the week we had not one, not two, but three talks that we participated in along with our co-presenters.

Garrett Peterson kicked off our presenting streak with co-panelists Kate Wainwright  of the Indiana State Department of Health and Willie Andrews of the VA Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services to discuss “Thinking locally, Acting Globally: The Global Health Informatics Task Force”. Each presenter shared an example of how programs and methods they had begun in their backyard found use across the globe.


Abbey Vangeloff presented with Rachelle Jones of APHL in a joint session with Daniel Tom Aba from the Helmholz Centre for Infection Research in a session called “Tools for Outbreak Management and Routine Reporting.” Daniel kicked things off with an overview of his tool SORMAS (Surveillance Outbreak Repsonse Management& Analysis sytem) which aims to improve prevention and control of communicable diseases in resource-poor settings through application of control measures in a timely manner. The system streamlines the reporting structure for outbreaks and is currently live in one country and will soon roll out to another. Abbey and Rachelle outlined a global health visualization project that uses OpenLDR and custom software to pull data out of LIMS systems and make it easy to present to the appropriate users from laboratory members all the way to ministry of health officials.

And then Garrett was up again for “The impact of Data Visualization for Laboratories” with Stephen Soroka of the CDC where they outlined the different types of visualizations, the use case for each, and even got a laugh or two from the crowd.


So what did we take away?

As the keynote speakers pointed out on Wednesday morning, if we were sitting in that room five years ago, the question of the day would be how do we get data and the focus would have been on data acquisition and storage. But today, there’s data aplenty, and the question is, what do we do with it? How do we take that data and turn it into actionable insights? How do we know the data is correct and how to we verify its source? How can we take data from more than one system and bring it together to create a richer pattern of insight and understanding. Many of the presenters at the conference brought up these similar themes, and share stories of their trials and successes in gaining visibility into the data they knew they were collection. So what’s the take away? Progress has been made, but there’s still a lot of work to be done in deciding what data matters and getting it into a location where actionable insight can be gained. (full discloser, this sort of problem is what gets us out of bed in the morning and excited to start a new day, so if you’ve got data in silos we can help you get it to sing.)


Should you go next time PHI comes up in 2020?

If you are interested in public health initiatives, like to learn about global priorities, and want to connect with the awesome people at the CDC, state laboratories, APHL, and other organizations that are working to improve the lives of those around them, then this conference is for you!