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For Immediate Release

October 2, 2002
Contact: CDC, Media Relations
(404) 6393286

Press Release

CDC provides $1.2 million to fund pilot program for early warning system for terrorism-related illness outbreaks

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced today that $1.2 million is being awarded to the Harvard Consortium for a pilot program to develop an early warning system for terrorism attacks. The project would be just one element of a national warning system and will utilize managed care networks that already exist, scanning these systems continually for clusters of illness.

The Harvard Consortium will develop a pilot national platform that connects 20 million ambulatory care patient records in all 50 states. The goal of the project is to develop a computer operating system that can interconnect information from various types of medical systems and health departments so that health professionals can get an early warning of a terrororism attack. If successful, the platform will serve as a model for a national syndromic surveillance system.

"This system will be able to locate pockets of illness that might represent an intentional attack of terrorism and will give us an early warning of such an attack," says U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson.

"The demonstration program will include a rapid response capability to notify public health officials of unusual occurrences as soon as the information becomes available," said Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of CDC. "The results of this project will help us more fully develop systems that extend our capacity to detect and respond to a terrorism attack at the earliest possible moment, while ensuring appropriate care to all patients."

The consortium also includes Massachusetts-based Harvard Pilgrim Health Care (HPHC), a managed health care organization through which the grant will be administered; Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates, a large, private group practice, as well as Harvard Medical School faculty at the HMS/HSPH department of ambulatory care and prevention and Brigham and Women's Hospital. Also included are Minnesota-based HealthPartners Research Foundation, the research wing of the similarly named health plan, medical group and center for health promotion; and Optum, a diversified health care company that will provide its experience with its national nurse telephone triage and health information service. Kaiser Permanente of Colorado, a member of Kaiser Permanente's nine-state health maintenance organization network, and the Washington, D.C.-based American Association of Health Plans, are also equal members of the consortium.

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