Leadership in Public Health Informatics

Leadership in Public Health Informatics

Public Health Leadership 9: Leadership in Public Health Informatics


Informatics has become central to the practice of public health. As a result, providing leadership in public health informatics represents a major opportunity with substantial challenges. In these columns, we offer a vision and strategies for creating an “informatics savvy health department” from thought leaders in the field. We address a frequent question: “What is Informatics?” Finally, we provide other columns on a range of leadership challenges, including making a strong business case for investment in public health information systems.

    1. The Health Alert Network — Partnerships, Politics and Preparedness (2005)
    2. Managing in the Information Age: Preventing “Electronic Fatigue Syndrome” (2006)
    3. Managing Information — Addressing A Central Challenge of the Public Health Enterprise (2013)
    4. Developing an Informatics Savvy Health Department- 5 columns (2014-19)
      1. Vision and Core Strategies (2014)
      2. Operations and Tactics (2015)
      3. Assessment and Governance (2017)
      4. Creating a Skilled Workforce (2017)
      5. Ensuring Well-Designed and Effectively Used Information Systems (2018)
    5. Building the Business Case for Public Health Information Systems (2016)
    6. What Is Informatics? (2016)
    7. The Information Imperative for Public Health — A Call to Action to Become Informatics-Savvy (2018)
    8. Building Informatics-Savvy Health Departments: The Systems Development Life Cycle (2019)
    9. Overcoming a Collective Failure of Imagination — How to Diagnose It and What to Do About It (2020)
    10. Modernizing Our Nation’s Public Health Information System: Toward an Integrated Approach (2021)
    11. New Directions in Public Health Surveillance: Using Electronic Health Records to Monitor Chronic Disease (2022)
    12.  A Brief History of Public Health Informatics—Lessons for Leaders and a Look Into the Future (2023)

Leader Interview: Dr. David A. Ross

As a companion to this series of columns on leadership in public health informatics, we present an interview from 2022 with Dr. Dave Ross, a preeminent pioneer in the field of public health informatics.

His personal story of growing up on a western ranch resulted in insights into the behavior of herd animals which translated into his views on the behavior of humans. A key takeaway from this insight is for public health leaders to know their audience and to adapt their leadership practices accordingly.

In this interview, he shares his own leadership philosophy which is characterized by:

  1. Being patient and persistent — The public health system moves slowly and will eventually respond to consistent and focused leadership.
  2. Being kind and respectful — Honesty and integrity should be your calling card.
  3. Rolling up your sleeves and being ready to help out when needed.
  4. Building relationships — Public health is a relationship business; leaders must involve others and defer to them when it helps the herd to move forward.

Dave also shares his experiences as a pioneer in public health informatics beginning with his leadership of the Information Network for Public Health Officials (INPHO) Initiative. He then discusses leading the All Kids Count program and the creation of the Public Health Informatics Institute (PHII), a program of the Task Force for Global Health, for which he has served as the President and CEO

Finally, he stresses the importance of being skilled in the process of selling one’s ideas as a central attribute of effective public health leadership. In doing so, one must not only know the audience but also craft an influential and personalized message- behaviors which Dave modelled over his entire public health career.

We trust that you will learn much from this inspiring time with one of our nation’s most influential and exemplary public health leaders.


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