ONC awards $73M toward public health IT workforce efforts

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT this week awarded $73 million as part of its Public Health Informatics and Technology Workforce Development Program.  

Funded by the American Rescue Plan, the PHIT Workforce Program aims to build up the U.S. public health IT workforce, especially among members of currently underrepresented groups.  

“We’re excited to hit the ground running to develop a continuous pipeline of diverse public health information technology professionals,” said National Coordinator Micky Tripathi in a statement.   

“It’s critical that we quickly identify and educate individuals from diverse backgrounds in public health, informatics and data science to cultivate a robust, sustainable public health workforce,” he said.  


According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the selected institutions of higher education will form consortia to collectively train more than 4,000 individuals over a four-year period through an interdisciplinary approach in public health IT.  

The consortia will develop curricula; recruit and train participants; secure paid internship opportunities; and assist in career placement at public health agencies, public health-focused nonprofits or other public health-focused organizations, said the agency.

The ten awardees are:  

  • Bowie State University
  • California State University, Long Beach Research Foundation
  • Dominican College of Blauvelt, Inc.
  • Jackson State University
  • Norfolk State University
  • Regents of the University of Minnesota
  • The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
  • University of Massachusetts at Lowell
  • University of California, Irvine
  • University of the District of Columbia  

ONC will support the overall administration of the program, which is intended to strengthen U.S. public health IT efforts, as well as improving COVID-19 data collection.  


Funding for the initiative stemmed from the American Rescue Plan passed in March, which included several provisions aimed at shoring up health IT.  

It set aside $500 million for a data modernization and forecasting center at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as allocating $1.75 billion to expand activities and workforce related to genomic sequencing, analytics and disease surveillance related to the novel coronavirus.  

The legislation also allowed states to use some of their fiscal recovery funding to make necessary investments in broadband infrastructure – increasingly necessary, say many stakeholders, in the context of a more robust digital health environment.  


“While we work to tackle the pandemic, we won’t take our foot off the gas when it comes to preparing for any future public health challenges,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra in a statement.   

“Thanks to the American Rescue Plan, we can invest in growing our nation’s public health workforce today to better meet the needs of tomorrow,” he said. “And as we work to expand talent, whether it’s in the field of technology or public health informatics, we will do so with an eye towards promoting diversity.”  

Kat Jercich is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Twitter: @kjercich
Email: kjercich@himss.org
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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