RTI International Developing 21st Century Surveillance System to Improve Nation's Health

ATLANTA – RTI International researchers are working to establish a surveillance system for assessment of public health threats.

Researchers on the project have just completed their first year, redesigning a surveillance system that provides nationwide and regional situational awareness for all-hazard health-related threats.

The three-year project, called BioSense Redesign, is funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Over the next three years, RTI will work with the CDC to create a cohesive system that

•    Provides more useful information for state and local partners
•    Supplies multipurpose value of timely data for regional entities and organizations
•    Offers a national picture of multiple health outcomes and syndromes.

The CDC BioSense Program was originally developed in the aftermath of the September 11 and subsequent anthrax attacks. Congress mandated funding for early detection and assessment of bioterrorism-related illness, and a BioSense information system was developed and implemented. However, it was done so with insufficient public health and other stakeholder involvement. As a result, adoption and use of the information system was limited.

In 2010, RTI was awarded a $16.3 million contract to redesign the BioSense program under CDC's new Office of Surveillance, Epidemiology and Laboratory Services.

In the first year, the cross-institute team developed a BioSense Redesign Collaboration website. The site features interactive elements to foster and encourage transparent information exchange, including a virtual work center for requirements gathering and a community forum.

The team has also held a number of stakeholder input sessions, including webinars, facilitated focus groups and one-on-one interviews. A technical expert panel provides guidance and governance for the project.

The new BioSense system will feature a user-driven and community-owned model to empower BioSense users as a public health surveillance community. The new model takes advantage of novel and proven data storage and processing technology to allow users to control their data and encourages collaboration in a social network-style environment.

RTI researchers have supported CDC's efforts to develop the BioSense Program since 2005, improving statistical models for early detection and assessing the utility of syndromic surveillance.