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11-09-2012 | Article

Public invited to vote on healthcare innovations

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medwireNews: The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is inviting the general public to cast ballots for one of six ideas proposed by its employees who answered the agency's HHSinnovates challenge.

The program, part of the HHS Open Government initiative, "recognizes and rewards good ideas and facilitates the exchange of innovations throughout the Department and beyond," said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a statement.

Twice each year, HHS is invited to submit ideas it believes can help address some of the most intractable problems in healthcare. HHS staff members vote online for their favorite ideas, and the HHS Secretary picks from the top prospects.

This year, the agency has added a "People's Choice" award, inviting the US public to go online and select the idea they like best.

The finalists, winnowed down from a pool of 60 entries, are: a 100K Pathogen Genome project; a National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Exchange; an Online Food Handler Training Project; a Coal Dust Explosibility Meter; a National Health Services Corps Job Centre (a clearing house for health jobs); and National Institutes of Health (NIH) Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools (online database of NIH-funded research).

The proposed 100K Pathogen Genome project is a program to sequence the genome of approximately 100,000 strains of important food-borne pathogens. The results would be freely available at the NIH National Center for Biotechnology Information.

The NIAID exchange, meanwhile, is a government "swap meet" for various government agents to exchange scientific and office equipment and supplies, and so cut back on duplicate purchasing. The program has so far saved the NIAID more than $ 30,000 since it was implemented in January of this year.

The online food handler project was developed by the Albuquerque Area Indian Health Service and involves a 1-hour training video and 20-question quiz, with a score of 70% or higher entitling the student to a food handler certificate.

In association with industry and commercial partners, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health developed the coal-dust meter, which gives real-time readings about the potential for combustible coal dust in the ambient atmosphere of coal mines. More than 200 devices are currently in use in mines throughout the USA.

By Neil Osterweil, medwireNews reporter