In January 2021 the Bipartisan Commission on Biodefense released its latest report: The Apollo Program for Biodefense. Issued in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the report draws upon earlier findings of the Commission to call for a “moon shot”-style investment to prepare the US (and the world) for the ongoing reality of large-scale biological threats.
The report has four major recommendations:
- Implement the previously-released National Blueprint for Biodefense (which validated our current predicament)
- Produce a national strategy that covers both the science and technology required
- Develop a cross-cutting budget for the US government, and
- Appropriate multi-year funding to implement the plan
One of the recommendations I was pleased to see was the call for a national public health data system. Though few specifics are offered, the report indicates that, “To be successful, the system must be able to efficiently integrate, curate, and analyze data in a timely manner from federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial public health agencies.” This is a worth goal given our current fragmented and decentralized assortment of public health surveillance and monitoring systems. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Data Modernization Initiative contains a roadmap to provide a “comprehensive strategy to modernize data, technology, and workforce capabilities” for public health. While fifty-eight jurisdictions were awarded cooperative agreements with CDC to assess and implement data modernization activities, it is important that these participants look beyond solving their own jurisdiction-specific data management issues to a broader set of cross-jurisdictional data sharing problems that continue to cripple our ability to respond to large-scale events.
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