Surveillance Strategy Report — How Forward-Thinking Workforce Drives Progress

If we are to capitalize on new data opportunities, we need to deepen the data science skills in the public health workforce. 

CDC relies on a dedicated and forward-thinking workforce to serve our public health mission. By combining the talent and experience of our veteran health professionals with fresh perspectives from experts bringing knowledge from other disciplines, we can maximize our innovation potential. That is the idea behind the HHS Entrepreneurs-in-Residence (EIR) ProgramExternal, an initiative to recruit talented people— mainly private-sector tech experts and startup founders—to help solve the nation’s most critical health challenges. Since 2014, five entrepreneurs have worked alongside seasoned CDC staff to advance many innovative projects, including:

Bringing stakeholders together to design tools and enhance existing electronic data systems to improve the nation’s mortality data reporting infrastructureExternal

Revolutionizing the way epidemiologists and public health professionals get, transfer, and use data by developing reusable shared services that can be plugged into multiple different surveillance programs within the agency

Using enterprise architecture to simplify, standardize, and automate clinical case reporting for notifiable diseasesExternal

Exploring the potential of block chain technology to improve data sharing between public health partners

Connecting Talent to Save Lives

Connecting the right talent, technology, and teamwork is a powerful way to advance solutions to modern health challenges. It’s also one way that CDC is enhancing surveillance through innovation.

In December 2017, experts from crosscutting CDC offices with diverse skill sets joined more than 300 computer programmers, public health advocates, and innovators for the first-of-its-kind HHS Opioid Code-a-Thon. At the event, 50 teams worked for more than 24 hours to create data-driven solutions that can have immediate and practical impact on the opioid crisis.

The projects were judged on innovation, design, potential for impact, and technical achievement. One team that included a CDC EIR advanced to the finals with a project showing how real-time social media feeds and machine learning could be used to track illicit online pharmacies.

The Code-a-Thon proved we need more communities that combine skills, resources, data, and technology to save lives.

“This event and the work of the team is a true testament of how transformative thinking can empower our public health workforce to create solutions to some of our most complex public health concerns.”


Michael F. Iademarco, MD, MPH

Rear Admiral, U.S. Public Health Service
Director, Center for Surveillance, Epidemiology, and Laboratory Services

Connecting talent to save lives

Michael F. Iademarco, MD, MPH

Surveillance improves public health response, allowing systems to adapt to current and future public health innovations.

Keywords: technology, healthcare, rapid response