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HHS Aims to Diversify Public Health Informatics, Technology Workforce via Funding Initiative; Elise Sweeney Anthony Quoted

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Health and Human
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An $80 million funding initiative by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will focus on creating a diverse talent pipeline for public health informatics and technology, HHS officials told Government Matters in an interview aired Sunday. 

Lisa Lewis, deputy national coordinator of operations in the Office of National Coordinator (ONC) for Health Information Technology, said the department aims to provide health IT training for approximately 4,000 individuals nationwide through the PHIT Workforce Program.

Elise Sweeney Anthony, executive director of HHS' policy office, noted that the program is eyeing minority-serving institutions to identify candidates capable of forming and participating in consortiums.

“They would essentially be providing training, certificate or degree-level programs focused on those two fields: public health informatics and public health technology from a diverse perspective,” Anthony added.

ONC plans to award 30 cooperative agreements for a four-year performance period, with individual awards not exceeding $10 million. According to the office, around $75 million of the program budget will be subject to conditions such as funding availability and milestone completion while the remaining $5 million will be allocated for the program’s administration.

The department expects to bring together workforce from local, state and tribal entities, including public health agencies and on-ground clinics. She added that HHS aims to ensure that efforts can continue after the four-year agreement period. 

“We know from COVID-19 that there is a demonstrated importance that is needed regarding data to response efforts … and identifying where health disparities may exist,” Anthony told GovMatters.