The Center for Health Security’s project—Toward Epidemic Preparedness: Enhancing Public Health Infrastructure and Incorporating Data-Driven Tools—will establish large-scale partnerships with traditional and nontraditional public health stakeholders across the country, as well as train public health students, practitioners, and modelers to use modeling and analytics tools for the full spectrum of epidemic responses. The project will engage diverse groups, including state and local public health departments, elected leaders, public health decision-makers, and meteorologists.
The project is led by Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security senior scholars Caitlin Rivers, PhD, MPH, and Crystal Watson, DrPH. Rivers returned to the Center for Health Security last year after serving as the CDC’s Center for Forecasting and Outbreak Analytics founding associate director from August 2021 to June 2022.
“This initiative is a crucial step in fortifying our nation’s defenses against future epidemics,” says Rivers, an epidemiologist who is also an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Health and Engineering, which spans the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering. “Through collaborative partnerships and the deployment of data-driven tools, we aim to empower public health professionals, decision-makers, and communities across the country to proactively respond to emerging health threats.”
“This project enables our team to promote nationwide adoption of data analytics tools with new and established partners,” says Watson, a risk assessment and preparedness expert who is also an associate professor in the Department of Environmental Health and Engineering. “Building analytical and communication skills is vital for aiding policymakers in gathering, understanding, and acting on evidence during health crises.”
The CDC created the Center for Forecasting and Outbreak Analytics in 2021 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. To date, the CDC center has also worked on responses to mpox, polio, and acute pediatric hepatitis.
“This is an extraordinary opportunity for the Bloomberg School to work with the CDC to build on lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and help create prevention and response systems that are robust, resilient, and ready for the challenges ahead,” says Ellen J. MacKenzie, PhD, ScM, dean of the Bloomberg School of Public Health. “I am proud that Caitlin Rivers and Crystal Watson will play such key roles in transforming our approach to preparedness. By promoting innovative resources and tools and nurturing stronger collaborations across sectors, they will be protecting health and preserving lives around the nation.”
The Center for Health Security will work with colleagues across the Bloomberg School and Johns Hopkins University, including the Johns Hopkins Center for Teaching and Learning, to implement this project. In the project’s first year, the team will work directly with partner organizations to better understand decision-makers’ information needs and to explore how modeling and analytics can help improve decision-making during public health emergencies.
“This project will allow our Center to focus on a new and critical domain of work that holds immense potential for enhancing our country’s preparedness for future epidemics,” says Tom Inglesby, MD, director of the Center for Health Security. “We are committed to working with our partners to establish systems, processes, and collaborations for integrating modeling and analytics into the management of routine and seasonal respiratory viruses as well as potential infectious disease emergencies.”
The Center for Health Security is one of 13 organizations that together form the Outbreak Analytics and Disease Modeling Network.
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