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IUPUI health informatics professor receives $100,000 grant

photo brian dixon

An IU School of Informatics and Computing faculty member at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis will receive a $100,000 grant and two years of targeted scientific mentoring after being selected as an early-career scholar by a national center that seeks to improve population health.

Brian Dixon, an assistant professor in health informatics, will receive the award from the National Coordinating Center for Public Health Services and Systems Research. The center is housed at the University of Kentucky College of Public Health and funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Dixon is also a research scientist at the Regenstrief Institute and an investigator in residence for the Center for Health Information and Communication, part of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Health Services Research and Development Service.

In a statement, the National Coordinating Center for Public Health Services and Systems Research said the funding and mentorship are designed to speed the discovery of strategies for improving the nation’s public health system. Dixon and the three others who were named early-scholars are expected to become the next generation of national leaders in the field of public health services and systems research.

The scholars’ studies investigate innovative public health programs and practices that have the potential to improve health status on a population-wide basis but currently have insufficient evidence about their effectiveness and value, the center said.

The project Dixon will focus on is titled “Improving Vaccine-Preventable Disease Reporting and Surveillance Through Health Information Exchange.”

Dixon’s research will implement and evaluate an automated process designed to improve reporting rates for vaccine-preventable diseases in Indiana, and to support more efficient provider reporting to public health agencies. The process takes advantage of Indiana’s statewide health information exchange that enables data-sharing between clinical and public health organizations, and it replaces existing, inefficient reporting procedures involving manual completion of health department forms.

Data from the health information exchange will be used to partially complete many of the required fields submitted to public health departments leaving blank only a small number of fields for clinical providers to complete. The process will also help identify cases of vaccine-preventable diseases that providers might otherwise forget to report because of high patient volumes or missing information.

Regenstrief Institute investigator Dr. Shaun Grannis, associate professor of family medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine, and P. Joseph Gibson, director of epidemiology at the Marion County Public Health Department, will serve as Dixon’s mentors. Grannis collaborates closely with state, national and international public health stakeholders to advance technical infrastructure and data-sharing capabilities for population health. Gibson oversees disease surveillance for Marion County and advises state and federal authorities on using information technologies to improve public health practice.