Strengthening the Nation’s Early Warning System for Health Threats

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, provided keynote remarks and described the Center’s three major pillars of operation: predict, inform, and innovate. Dr. Walensky said that CFA has an opportunity to coordinate disparate data sources in the United States in an effort to capture the broad and diverse experience of all communities and enable more accurate and timely predictions of future health threats. Speakers all underscored the importance of using CFA capabilities to reduce health inequities.

The remainder of the event featured three panels to provide a wide range of perspectives on data and analytics and their use to inform decision making. The full event recording can be found here.

Panel 1: Next-Generation Public Health Data and Analytics
Moderator: Dr. Caitlin Rivers, Associate Director, Center for Forecasting and Outbreak Analytics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


·  Dr. Margaret Hamburg, Chair, Commonwealth Fund, Commission on a National Public Health System

·  Dr. James Lu, CEO and Co-Founder, Helix

·  Dr. Marc Lipsitch, Director for Science, Center for Forecasting and Outbreak Analytics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

·  Mr. Pierre Grand, Partnerships and Collaborations Lead, World Health Organization

The goal of the panel was to: 1) frame the importance of establishing a national, trusted resource for early warning; 2) highlight the current and future state of public health data and predictive analytics; and 3) discuss how the CFA will be working with the stakeholder community to improve the quality of the data and analytics moving forward.

Key themes from first panel discussion include:

·  Breaking down data silos and leveraging new data types: The US Government and CDC should promote organizational structures and incentives to encourage real-time access to relevant data across sectors (public health, health care, etc), and actively seek novel data sources that could be particularly relevant for forecasting. 

·  Creating critical analytical infrastructure: CFA can be a catalyst to advance the data architecture necessary to coordinate and leverage information from multiple sources, including new data sources and data types.

·  Dismantling health inequities: CDC, in partnership with other government agencies and the private sector, has an opportunity to advance health equity by collecting data that better represent diverse populations and include populations that current public health data architecture does not capture. Without improvements to the data infrastructure, the CFA will be significantly constrained in its ability to generate models and forecasts that support the most vulnerable communities in their ability to prepare for and respond to emerging health threats.

Panel 2: Enabling Local Governments 
Moderator: Dr. Seema Yasmin, Director of Research and Education at the Stanford Health Communication Initiative, Stanford University


·  Dr. Betsey Tilson, State Health Director and Chief Medical Officer, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services

·  Dr. Lynn Paxton, District Health Director, Fulton County, Georgia

·  Mr. Mark Yancy, CEO, NashvilleHealth

·  Ms. Meredith Sumpter, Director for Justice, Health, and Democracy Impact Initiative, New America

·  Dr. Joe Francis, Executive Director, Analytics and Performance Integration, Veterans Health Administration

The goal of the panel was to emphasize: 1) the importance of better information in improving the decisions of communities; and 2) the role that key institutions such as government, departments of health, and major healthcare systems have and should play in engaging broad constituents outside of the health care system.

Key themes from second panel discussion include:

·  Building trusted networks: To ensure that models and forecasts are communicated effectively to decision makers and the public, the CFA will need to understand, and possibly establish, networks of trusted communicators in communities that can be activated during outbreaks and used to convey health information. These communicators are critical to ensure that all communities, especially vulnerable communities, receive relevant health information early in an outbreak to help prepare for and respond to health threats. 

·  Increasing access to information: Access to information is considered a social determinant of health, given how disparate that access among communities can be. The CFA should establish two-way communication networks to ensure that models are as accurate as possible and communicated in a way that resonates with the intended audience.

·  Bidirectional information flows are vital: The Center should not see itself as solely providing assessments and products to its broad constituents, but rather, it should establish directional flows of information so that the Center is part of a broader, multi-sectoral ecosystem that is aware of what is happening in real-time across communities and sectors. It should be poised to quickly leverage incoming insights, data, and information to inform how CFA conceives of, executes, and produces forecasts and other assessments.

Panel 3: Strengthening the System for Patient
Moderator: Dr. Freda Lewis Hall, Senior Advisor, Black Coalition Against COVID


·  Dr. Mark McClellan, Executive Director, Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy, Duke University

·  Dr. Richard Feifer, Chief Medical Officer, President of Genesis Physician Services, Genesis HealthCare

·  Dr. Loretta Christensen, Chief Medical Officer, Indian Health Service

·  Ms. Pat Wang, CEO, HealthFirst

The goal of the panel was to highlight the opportunity for CFA to develop strong relationships with all aspects of the healthcare system. The CFA will play a critical role in ensuring that healthcare decision makers are provided timely and relevant information that improves their decision making and ensures that they are well prepared to act in future pandemics on behalf of the communities they serve.

Key themes from the third panel discussion include:

·  Building Partnerships with Healthcare Communities: CFA partnerships should facilitate bidirectional communication with stakeholders and the public. In establishing the work of the CFA, there are opportunities to strengthen partnerships between the public health and healthcare communities to collaborate on the future of how data should be shared and what type of information is most important in informing the decisions that are made within communities.

·  Enabling health data sharing and reporting: Health data sharing and reporting—such as hospitalizations, cases, vaccination rates, and sequencing data—are crucial for the effective development of models and forecasts to inform health responses. The CFA should work with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to streamline and incentivize data reporting between healthcare and public health systems to develop more accurate models for outbreak responses, especially for those in vulnerable communities and settings such as long-term care facilities.

Closing Remarks
Closing remarks were provided by Dr. Sandi Ford, Special Assistant to the President for Public Health & Science, Domestic Policy Council, on how the CFA will build upon lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and create a single, trusted source of health information during a public health event. Dr. Ford also highlighted the need for global cooperation and partnerships with stakeholders and the public to rapidly detect and respond to public health events.