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What is Public Health informatics?

Public health informatics uses technology and analytics to find modern solutions for public health problems. Through the use of public health data, software, and information systems, public health content and data analysis findings are transformed into compelling descriptions of public health problems, health disparities, and trends in disease rates. This information can be used for disease prevention, preparedness, and improving the general population’s health. Informatics can be focused on internal data use at public health agencies, but can also include visualizations of data for public consumption.

The field of public health informatics was pivotal during the COVID-19 pandemic. Analyzing public health data and display of those data on dashboards, maps, and infographics helped to bring important messages about this new disease to the public. Data also enabled government agencies and healthcare companies to provide care equitably and to prevent the spread of the virus by setting up vaccine and testing sites, distributing protective equipment to workers, and helped keep those dashboards up to date. Public health specialists used data to gain insights about vaccine effectiveness, virus spread, and demographic information on rates of illness and vaccination that helped combat COVID-19 and demonstrated when care was not equal across groups.

What career opportunities exist in the field?

Within the field of public health informatics, there exists a wide range of careers in both the private and public sectors. From public health informatics in public health agencies, to private sector work and consulting, jobs can range from more technology heavy skills, to data analytics, to setting up dashboards for public information. The same skills used in public health informatics are also applicable in healthcare or medical settings. Regardless of the type of career, the fundamental skills needed are the same. These essential skills include data analytics skills, knowledge of programming, understanding of public health, analytical thinking, and problem-solving including application of technology. These skills are in high demand by employers in many industries and coursework and an internship (paid) will help in finding a public health informatics job.

Why PH Informatics?

Public health informatics plays a critical role in the healthcare industry by improving the health outcomes of individuals and communities. As a public health informatics professional, you will have the opportunity to leverage technology to enhance disease surveillance, outbreak management, and health promotion efforts.

The field of public health informatics is rapidly growing due to the increasing demand for healthcare data management and analysis. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of healthcare IT professionals, including those in public health informatics, is projected to grow by 8% from 2019 to 2029, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. Due to the high demand for skilled public health informatics professionals, the salaries are typically very competitive. According to the Health Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS), the median salary for public health informatics professionals is $97,000 per year.

A career in public health informatics offers a rewarding opportunity to make a significant impact on public health while also enjoying competitive salaries and opportunities for growth and advancement.

Public health informatics is a constantly evolving field, with new technologies and innovations being introduced regularly. Pursuing a career in this field will allow you to be at the forefront of these advancements and contribute to the development of new solutions and applications that improve public health.


Undergraduate Courses

This course provides an introduction to public health informatics and technology. Students will gain an understanding of the basic concepts of public health, including the history and structure of public health in the United States. An overview of public health information systems and data will be explored and how they support public health. 

Students will gain an understanding and application of public health informatics and technology with a focus on health/healthcare disparities. Students will procure, create, clean, manage, and analyze data to answer public health questions. Health informatics standards will also be introduced.

This course focuses on approaching public health issues from an equity or health justice perspective and applying geospatial skills to address structural inequities, health disparities, and racial justice issues. Students will learn to use geospatial information science and technologies to analyze health data at local, state, national, and global scales. The course covers mapping/cartographic techniques and the use of software commonly used by public health agencies and businesses. Case studies will provide examples of how place matters in public health and health services delivery, particularly in addressing health disparities affecting Black and Indigenous People of Color in the US.

The pandemic has exposed gaps in our public health reporting and data analysis. Federal and state governments as well as community health organizations are investing in robust data collection to support research and response. Foundations of Public Health Informatics and Technology (FPHIT) is a fully online program of courses and projects across key topics that prepares you for an entry-level career and continued education at the intersection of public health and data analytics.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

The California Consortium of Public Health Informatics and Technology (CCPHIT) is developing training programs to increase California’s supply of public health informatics and technology (PHIT) professionals. Informatics is the science of how to use data, information, and analysis to provide insights that improve population health and the delivery of health care services. Our overarching goal is to increase the diversity of the public health informatics workforce.

This project brings together subject matter experts to support the consortium objectives by developing culturally relevant public health informatics curricula through a health equity lens, with multiple tracks that prepares students to meet the needs of health related employers. 

Our program includes California state community colleges, Cal State campuses, and University of California together in complementary roles to form the CCPHIT in partnership with Health partners, including Departments of Public Health, public health community clinics and associations. We also engage community-based partners, such as health advocacy organizations, health industry providers, insurers, and technology/service organizations. Two of these key partners are: 1) Futuro Health, a community-based non-profit that focuses on the largest network of credentialed allied health workers in the nation, and 2) IEEE, which is at the apex of digital transformation globally, the world’s largest technical professional organization dedicated to advancing technology for the benefit of humanity. 

Regional health departments and relevant private industry partners are committed to providing paid experiential learning opportunities for participants. CCPHIT can successfully contribute to meeting workforce placements and apply our collective strategies to creating a sustainable, ongoing pipeline of a diverse PHIT workforce to assist in addressing future Public Health challenges. The consortium is 3-tier in its educational institutions with the community colleges as our frontline of engagement with communities. The educational institutions in the consortium will sustain the teaching of the new PHIT courses and motivate other educational institutions outside our consortium to do the same.

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