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22-08-2012 | Article

HHS boosts state epidemiology labs


News release

medwireNews: The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is awarding nearly $ 49 million in grants to support epidemiology, laboratory, and health information systems throughout the USA and its territories.

The awards "support the critical work of public health departments to prevent, track and respond to new and emerging infectious diseases," said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a statement.

The awards come from the Affordable Care Act Prevention and Public Health Fund, which in turn supports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity for Infectious Diseases program.

The program supports health departments at the local, state, and territorial level in their efforts to improve disease reporting and monitoring. This is done through the hiring and training of health department staff, and acquisition of information technology, laboratory equipment, and supplies for detecting and diagnosing emerging pathogens.

The awards will support programs to combat healthcare-associated infections in 49 states, District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Sixteen states will receive awards to support state-based prevention collaboratives.

In addition, 49 states, five large cities, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico will receive funding to support implementation of electronic laboratory-based reporting systems that are expected to facilitate information exchanges within the state and with CDC. Arizona, Tennessee, South Carolina, and New Mexico will also receive funding to support implementation of electronic lab reporting systems specifically focused on healthcare-associated infections.

"All 50 states, the district, the five largest cities, Puerto Rico and the Republic of Palau [a former US territory] will receive funds for the continued support of flexible, cross-cutting public health epidemiology and laboratory staff, equipment, supplies, travel, and training to sustain and improve their capacity to detect and respond to emerging infectious diseases," the HHS statement says.

By Neil Osterweil, medwireNews reporter