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UW School of Nursing professor receives RWJF grant to improve tracking of public health data

Monday April 7, 2014
Betty Bekemeier, RN
Betty Bekemeier, RN
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Data are key to understanding trends in health, especially when it comes to local health departments and how they use their resources. Everything from care for newborn babies to infectious disease control is managed in these settings, yet they lack consistent data tracking mechanisms that help to understand how budget cuts or increases are impacting programs, and therefore, overall health of the communities they serve.

New grant funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation will help University of Washington School of Nursing Associate Professor Betty Bekemeier, RN, PhD, MPH, FAAN, and her team lead a program that will help change those tracking mechanisms at the health department level, making data collection more consistent and easier to use and understand, according to a news release.

“Without good data we can’t assure program effectiveness in the same ways for each place,” Bekemeier said in the release. “We can’t adequately keep people safe from harm or provide them with resources they need if we don’t have a way to know how effective we are in managing public
health threats.”

Health departments track all kinds of data, from the number of people who use their services to the diseases present in a specific area. They use these data to help improve their programs and prioritize activities toward groups with the highest need. Bekemeier said without a national system to support consistent tracking of data across counties and states, these data often are incomparable and unusable in supporting rigorous research on program or agency effectiveness.

Bekemeier’s two-year, $500,000 project will enable a team of researchers to continue to expand the work of their existing Public Health Activities and Services Tracking study. This additional funding will leverage Bekemeier’s work with PHAST to facilitate development of standardized public health services data collection among local and state public health systems in several states around
the country.


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