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Kaine, Murphy, Smith Introduce Bill to Modernize Public Health Data Infrastructure

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, Chris Murphy (D-CT), and Tina Smith (D-MN) reintroduced the Improving Data Accessibility Through Advancements (DATA) in Public Health Act, legislation to modernize our nation’s public health data infrastructure. This bill would increase timely and accurate information sharing between local, state, and federal public health departments to improve our preparedness and response to emerging public health threats.

“The pandemic underscored the importance of having an effective public health data sharing system for tracking cases, responding to public health emergencies, and providing live-saving care for those in need,” said Kaine. “While we’ve made some progress to strengthen public health data sharing since COVID, we still have much more to do to better connect local, state, and federal public health systems. The Improving DATA in Public Health Act would help us do that.”

“Accurate, real-time data is key to an effective public health strategy – a major lesson learned from the pandemic. This legislation would bring our public health data infrastructure into the 21st century and make sure local, state, and federal public health departments have the information they need to monitor and quickly respond to future emergencies,” said Murphy.

“We need collaboration across all levels of government to ensure that our public health experts have the information they need to make the best decisions,” said Smith. “Addressing the information gaps in public health data is crucial, and this bill provides a much-needed update to the way local, federal, and tribal authorities communicate, ensuring that we are ready to respond to the next public health crisis and keep our communities safe.”

The United States’ early response to the COVID-19 pandemic was hindered by gaps in public health data, varying definitions of data across government agencies, and difficulties accessing data. These barriers made it more difficult for health care professionals to access the data they needed to make timely, evidence-based clinical decisions, and prevented public health officials from accurately monitoring and responding to disease outbreaks. Our public health system learned from these gaps in data and we must make permanent these data sharing requirements. The Improving DATA in Public Health Act would help save lives and prepare the U.S. for future public health crises.

Specifically, the Improving DATA in Public Health Act would improve public health data sharing by:

  • Directing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to establish uniform data standards for sharing public health data across local, state, and federal public health systems. Without uniform standards, it’s difficult for federal agencies like the CDC to aggregate public health data and for local and state health systems across the country to respond to public health threats;
  • Allowing the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to strengthen data sharing processes between public health entities, like health care facilities, laboratories, and public health departments;
  • Creating a grant program for health care providers, academic medical centers, and state and local public health systems to develop best practices on soliciting demographic information used for public health purposes to strengthen the quality and completeness of demographic data collection; and
  • Establishing an advisory committee of experts to ensure that public health data reporting processes are carried out effectively.

Kaine originally introduced a version of this bill last year, and some provisions were included in the Senate HELP Committee’s PREVENT Pandemics Act, which became law as part of the Fiscal Year 2023 government funding bill that Kaine helped pass. The Improving DATA in Public Health Act would build on those provisions to strengthen our public health data sharing system.

Kaine has long led efforts to modernize our public health data systems. In 2019, he led bipartisan legislation to fund improvements to our nation’s public health data infrastructure. The American Rescue Plan, which Kaine helped pass, provided funding to support and strengthen public health data surveillance and analytics systems at the CDC. Kaine specifically pushed for this funding to be included in the final bill. Last year, he announced over $74 million in funding to strengthen the public health workforce and infrastructure in Virginia.

Full text of the bill is available here.