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Quickly Noted: Public Health Information Rapid Exchange

September 13, 2007

I’ve noted before that I receive a bi-weekly newsletter from the Yale New Haven Center for Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Response. They do a great round-up of what’s going on in public health preparedness, and offer some information on local training.

Last week, they had an item on a new program out of CDC, named Public Health Information Rapid Exchange (PHIRE). From what I can gather, it’s a system for sending health alerts out to registered users. I signed up recently – and haven’t received anything yet, so sorry that I can’t tell if you if it’s the greatest thing since Facebook or not.

I have to say, the whole idea seems a bit strange, though. I’m trying to figure out the audience for this, because what this does seems to overlap with another CDC program. According to the PHIRE website:

PHIRE, the CDC Public Health Information Rapid Exchange, is a system that sends important real-time health information to select subscribers based on their preferences. For example, the system enables CDC to rapidly disseminate alerts about evidence of suspected pandemic influenza in the United States.

and

If evidence of unusual numbers of influenza cases is discovered in your geographic area, for example, PHIRE can notify you and other users in your area.

I can think of three types of people they’re trying to get here: health care providers, pan flu worriers (I admit, this is a bad term, but much better than panflu-heads) and the general public. I can’t see the general public needing up-to-the-minute updates on flu cases in their area. As for health care providers, well, they get much better information using the Health Alert Network (HAN) already in place, so I can’t see the benefit there. So, being that influenza is mentioned twice on the description page, and the only “Related Link” is a link to the HHS’ Pandemic Flu webpage – I think it’s safe to say this was built purely for folks preparing for pan flu. But even then, I wonder if CDC would send something out over this exchange system before sending it to CNN and the health care community. Doesn’t make much sense to me, frankly. Your mileage may vary, though, so I’ll put it on the Resources page.

Logo “courtesy” of CDC.

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