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Who We Are

The mission of the Office of Public Health Scientific Services is to lead, promote, and facilitate science standards and policies to reduce the burden of diseases in the United States and globally. We provide strategic leadership to the National Center for Health Statistics and the Center for Surveillance, Epidemiology and Laboratory Services and work across the agency at the request of the CDC director.

Extending the Possibilities of Public Health Practice

CDC’s expertise in science extends beyond one issue and one approach. The factors affecting our health are wide-ranging—from inefficient or underfunded systems, to new and changing health threats, natural disasters, bioterrorism, access to healthcare, and the growing burden of noncommunicable diseases. These issues require strategic thinking, new ideas, flexibility, and readiness to connect across disciplines.[1] Our office drives practical approaches to address present—and anticipate future—public health challenges. We are often the spark that ignites and incubates new research and projects that are furthered by other parts of CDC and outside partners.

Why it Matters

Today’s landscape requires thinking beyond traditional approaches of collecting and sharing health information and statistics. We need accurate and timely data that direct decisions, technology that keeps pace with our need for speed, and research that reaches across CDC and beyond.

As the nation’s health protection agency, it is important to connect across CDC’s Centers, Institutes, and Offices (CIOs) to allow the agency to be more responsive and effective when dealing with public health concerns. Having an office charged with connecting and communicating CDC’s scientific priorities as a whole is critical to finding efficiencies, leveraging resources, and tackling tough problems that need wider agency participation.

How We Do It

We lead CDC initiatives around surveillance, cultivate agency-wide involvement, and find new approaches to assess our workforce’s current and future needs. We research and develop platforms for emerging technologies, like data visualization, examine complex social issues, like rural health, and access to healthcare. In everything we do, we keep people safe by ensuring the quality, potential, and effectiveness of our public health investments.

Improving Surveillance and Data Platforms

Driving CDC’s Surveillance Strategy

We oversee CDC’s Surveillance Strategy as an agency priority. This cross-agency effort responds to requests from multiple stakeholders, including Congress, state public health leaders, and federal advisory committees asking for the development of a new surveillance strategy. This step-wise approach is improving the technology and value of our health information, beginning with states.

Leading CDC’s Surveillance Board

We bring experts together to solve problems and create innovative solutions to advance the fields of public health data, statistics, informatics, surveillance, epidemiology, laboratory practices, and workforce development.

  • The CDC Deputy Director for Public Health Scientific Services chairs the CDC Surveillance Leadership Board, which is accountable to the CDC director. The board reviews, guides, and oversees the evolution of CDC surveillance systems to optimize resource investments devoted to existing and emerging surveillance systems.
  • Every CDC Center, Institute, and Office (CIO) participates on the board. Workgroups across the agency have been established to drive select priorities from standardizing data elements across surveillance systems to reducing costs.

Generating and connecting innovation

As part of CDC’s Surveillance Strategy, we launched a consortium for fostering and sharing creative solutions to surveillance challenges that are unique to public health.

  • Since the strategy’s inception in 2014, every CIO at CDC has participated in this forum with direct involvement by 94 different CDC groups and programs and about 30 outside organizations.
  • Examples of projects include, reducing data collection burden on healthcare providers to deliver surveillance data, studying early warning systems for disease transmission along national borders, developing an App to report stroke cases, and developing new ways track antibiotic resistance in foodborne pathogens.

Modernizing data platforms for increased productivity

To modernize information technology supporting disease tracking and control, we initiated a Surveillance Data Platform with a set of core shared services within CDC. Launched in 2016 as an outcome of CDC’s Surveillance Strategy, this platform is dedicated to making disease tracking more efficient through the use of cloud-based technology. The platform is a multi-phase initiative with the first set of shared services scheduled to be released in 2017. When the platform is fully realized in 2020 it will reduce the number of different ways CDC asks for the same type of information from health departments, and as a result, decrease the burden on partners to send and use data.

Enhancing understanding of complex information through data visualization

As a cross-cutting office, we’re interested in new advances, such as the use of big data and the new field of visual analytics. We work at the forefront of promoting advanced visualizations and visual analytics to improve decision making around public health.

  • As part of this effort, we identified a traveling exhibit, Places & Spaces: Mapping Science, curated by the Cyberinfrastructure for Network Science Center at Indiana University and worked to bring it to the David J. Sencer CDC Museum. Alongside the exhibit we organized lectures and trainings to help CDC managers develop visualizations to improve decision making in their own program areas.

Connecting Public Health and Healthcare

Exchanging healthcare data electronically

We identify approaches for increasing the use of electronic health records (EHRs) as part of an integrated strategy to improve reporting from both clinicians and public health practitioners and better link information that can be used by multiple users.

  • With the proliferation of disease outbreaks and the need for fast access to patient health data, EHRs are critical to successful management of patient care. Hospitals and health professionals need information in electronic format that is available quickly to make well-coordinated clinical decisions that improve overall health.
  • With healthcare adoption of EHR, interoperability between public health and healthcare is essential for public health surveillance. We are working with the Digital Bridge Initiative, bringing together public health, health IT developers and health systems in a multi-jurisdictional approach to electronic case reporting (eCR). This is a valuable tool that reduces the burden of public health reporting of infectious diseases, while improving the timeliness, accuracy, and completeness of data. Early detection of cases allows for earlier intervention, diminished transmission of disease, and improved detection of outbreaks.
  • We are using the HL7 data standards such as Clinical Document Architecture (CDA) and Fast Health Interoperability Resources (FHIR) as potential solutions for exchanging healthcare data electronically.

Improving clinical guideline development, decision support, and quality measures

We work at the intersection of public health and healthcare, namely in clinical guidelines, clinical decision support, and clinical quality measures, driving a cross-agency approach.

  • Much can be gained by reducing the time it takes to apply clinical guidelines in patient care and identifying public health data to support measures to improve clinical quality. We are working with CDC programs to solve problems that stand in the way of progress. A first step is by applying new methods for more collaborative decision making and continuous improvement that work across multiple stakeholders. Learn more >>

Putting Data to Work

Understanding CDC’s scientific workforce and surveillance systems, and support to partners

We study and assess CDC’s investments by identifying and categorizing CDC’s surveillance landscape, examining our workforce and support to partners, and tracking these resources over time.

  • The agency hosts multiple surveillance systems that span a spectrum of health conditions and risks factors that fall into four broad categories: infectious diseases; non-infectious health conditions; both infectious and non-infectious health conditions; and risk factors and exposures. The majority of CDC resources go to state and local health departments.
  • We are in the process of assessing CDC’s surveillance-related workforce as well as grants going to state and local health departments. This information will help us identify and fill gaps in the skills needed to modernize surveillance systems. These analyses will also serve as a guide to better target surveillance resources and create efficiencies without losing quality.

Informing New Research

Advancing new research through the MMWR Rural Health Series

We track hard to solve public health problems, like disparities in rural health affecting the 15% of all Americans who live in rural areas.

  • We have overseen the creation of the first-ever MMWR Rural Health Series, coordinating with experts committed to studying health effects of this important population. We have expanded the reach of this series by collaborating with other federal agencies, participating in national webinars and conferences, and fostering relationships with other journals that are publishing commentaries linked to the articles in the series.

Our Organization

We provide strategic leadership to the National Center for Health Statistics and the Center for Surveillance, Epidemiology and Laboratory Services. We work alongside two other CDC offices: Office of Noncommunicable Disease, Injury, and Environmental Health and Office of Infectious Diseases to support the CDC director on agency-wide plans.

The CDC budget fact sheet for Public Health Scientific Services provides an overview of our mission, activities, and performance. Learn more about our organization and resources.  Click here to access CDC’s Organization Chart.


[1] Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. Connecting health and care for the nation: a 10-year vision to achieve an interoperable health IT infrastructure. Accessed August 9, 2016.