In 2019 our nation’s leading public health organizations began an effort to modernize our underfunded and antiquated public health data infrastructure. At that time, many state, Tribal, local, and territorial (STLT) public health agencies were using manual paper and fax-based methods to receive and share public health data. The system was woefully unequipped for rapid response to a severe emerging public health emergency. Facilitated by CRD Associates, four leading public health organizations convened the Data: Elemental to Health Campaign to call for sustained federal funding for a modern, interoperable public health data infrastructure that can move accurate data swiftly enough for effective response at the STLT levels. With an initial estimate of $1 billion over ten years to modernize the U.S. public health data infrastructure, the campaign succeeded in securing $50 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2020—the first ever funding for CDC’s Data Modernization Initiative (DMI).
Then, COVID-19 struck and exposed additional deadly gaps in our public health data infrastructure. The campaign enhanced its efforts and added other key public health organizations to its leadership. In total, more than one hundred public health, health care, patient advocacy, and industry groups support DMI. Thanks to Data: Elemental to Health, Congress provided $500 million for DMI in the CARES Act and an additional $500 for DMI and CDC’s new Center for Forecasting and Outbreak Analytics in the American Rescue Plan. Coupled with increasing annual appropriations since FY 2020, DMI has expanded and is demonstrating success. For example, states are implementing and utilizing electronic case reporting (eCR) to report health care case data automatically from electronic health record systems directly to public health departments. While we have achieved the initial $1 billion in estimated funding for DMI, the pandemic revealed we need far more resources to meet our nation’s current and long-term public health data needs—an estimated $7.84 billion over five years. Data: Elemental to Health is working with CDC to ensure resources flow to STLT agencies and continues its call for sustained annual funding through the regular appropriations process, while seeking avenues in Congress for the necessary large-scale investment. Most recently Congress provided a $75 million increase for DMI in FY 2023.