From 2005 through 2010, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) supported the National Library of Medicine to oversee a new Public Health Informatics Fellows Training Program at four of its 18 biomedical informatics training sites. The purpose was to catalyze the development of the public health informatics field and create a sustainable pipeline of future leaders in public health informatics.
Public health informatics is the systematic application of information, computer science and technology to public health practice, research and learning. Training was needed because the public health system—more than 3,000 federal, state and local health agencies and departments that work to prevent disease and promote health—needed to be able to use information in a sophisticated way.
National Library of Medicine staff, RWJF staff and a national advisory board chose four sites already engaged in biomedical informatics to participate in the public health informatics program.
The four participating universities established formal public health informatics programs to:
- Develop new public health informatics courses and create a public health informatics track.
- Provide a practicum of on-site experiences and interaction with public health departments.
- Provide students with research methodology and/or program evaluation experience through courses and research projects.
- Provide training and information in public health informatics to other informatics students as well as students in their institution’s public health schools.
Some 17 fellows (two pre-doctoral, 11 doctoral and four post-doctoral) completed the informatics training program at the four universities.
Nine of these fellows are pursuing careers in public health informatics, encompassing academic positions and public health practice.
Six of the fellows are completing or have recently completed doctorates; one fellow is working as a knowledge engineer in the private sector.
Ten of the 18 participating National Library of Medicine informatics programs now have a public health informatics track.