New Lab Matters: Making data fly

Cover of Fall 2019 issue of Lab Matters magazine illustrating high volume of data

In today’s technology-connected world, information moves quickly. But in the world of public health, pathogens often travel faster than the data needed to diagnose, treat and prevent illness. Reporting delays and incomplete or incompatible data delay insights into pressing public health problems. The solution? Investing in public health infrastructure and resources to rapidly deliver data to public health and clinical decision makers.

Here are a few of this issue’s highlights:

Read the full issue.

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CDC findings mark a breakthrough in investigation of lung injury associated with vaping

Man vaping

Statement from Scott J. Becker, executive director, Association of Public Health Laboratories

Silver Spring, MD, November 8, 2019 — “Test results announced today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention mark a breakthrough in the ongoing investigation of lung injury associated with e-cigarette use or vaping.

“Laboratory scientists testing samples of lung fluid from 29 patients found vitamin E acetate present in all samples. These results provide direct evidence of this toxin at the primary site of injury within the lungs. They also complement tests conducted by the Food and Drug Administration and state public health laboratories that identified vitamin E acetate in e-cigarette or vaping products.

“While this is a big step in helping us understand what may be causing these injuries, these findings do not rule out the potential for other compounds or ingredients as contributing factors. There may be more than one cause of the outbreak.

“APHL applauds state public health laboratories, CDC, FDA and partners including the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists for their extraordinary collaboration and tireless and innovative work.

“This has been a complex investigation, and the work continues. But good science takes time, and public health laboratory work is critical to helping solve this important health challenge and stopping the outbreak.”

# # #

More APHL’s support of the EVALI response

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CDC findings mark a breakthrough in investigation of lung injury associated with vaping

Man vaping

Statement from Scott J. Becker, executive director, Association of Public Health Laboratories

Silver Spring, MD, November 8, 2019 — “Test results announced today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention mark a breakthrough in the ongoing investigation of lung injury associated with e-cigarette use or vaping.

“Laboratory scientists testing samples of lung fluid from 29 patients found vitamin E acetate present in all samples. These results provide direct evidence of this toxin at the primary site of injury within the lungs. They also complement tests conducted by the Food and Drug Administration and state public health laboratories that identified vitamin E acetate in e-cigarette or vaping products.

“While this is a big step in helping us understand what may be causing these injuries, these findings do not rule out the potential for other compounds or ingredients as contributing factors. There may be more than one cause of the outbreak.

“APHL applauds state public health laboratories, CDC, FDA and partners including the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists for their extraordinary collaboration and tireless and innovative work.

“This has been a complex investigation, and the work continues. But good science takes time, and public health laboratory work is critical to helping solve this important health challenge and stopping the outbreak.”

# # #

More APHL’s support of the EVALI response

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APHL Newborn Screening Systems Quality Improvement Projects Award Recipients Announced

Newborn screening laboratory scientist at work

The Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL) is pleased to announce the recipients of the Newborn Screening Systems Quality Improvement Projects awards. Funded through a cooperative agreement with Genetic Services Branch of the US Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), these awards will provide funding to support continuous quality improvement (CQI) initiatives led by state newborn screening programs.

The Newborn Screening Systems Quality Improvement Projects build on the combined success of previous HRSA Maternal and Child Health Bureau funded cooperative agreements for NewSTEPs, NewSTEPs 360 and the NewSTEPs Timeliness Collaborative Improvement and Innovation Network (CoIIN). However, the Newborn Screening Systems Quality Improvement Projects are unique in that agencies are able to identify specific system challenges within their programs and request the funding necessary to work through their challenges using CQI methods. The ultimate goal is to improve their state or territorial newborn screening program thus improving health outcomes for newborns.

A total of 14 project proposals from 12 agencies were selected to participate in the QI projects, with focus areas including newborn screening timeliness, improvements to long- and short- term follow-up, patient and provider education, health information technology (HIT) and improvements to results reporting. These agencies include:

  • Alaska Department of Health and Social Services
  • Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment
  • Georgia Department of Public Health Laboratory
  • Georgia Department of Public Health Laboratory
  • Heluna Health in partnership with the California Department of Health
  • Iowa Department of Public Health
  • Louisiana Office of Public Health Laboratories
  • Minnesota Department of Health
  • New York State Department of Health
  • Puerto Rico Newborn Screening Program
  • Puerto Rico Newborn Screening Program
  • South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control
  • Tennessee Department of Health
  • Virginia Department of General Services/Division of Consolidated Services

In addition to funding support, awardees of the Newborn Screening Systems Quality Improvement Projects participate in a multidisciplinary collaborative network focused on improving newborn screening. They will receive customized coaching and technical assistance on designing and implementing their quality improvement project; support around data and reporting; and opportunities to disseminate their projects to other members of the newborn screening community.

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This program is 100% funded through Cooperative Agreement # UG8MC31893 from the Health Resources and Services Administration. All publications and presentations are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of HRSA.

The Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL) works to strengthen laboratory systems serving the public’s health in the US and globally. APHL’s member laboratories protect the public’s health by monitoring and detecting infectious and foodborne diseases, environmental contaminants, terrorist agents, genetic disorders in newborns and other diverse health threats.

 

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New Lab Matters: A game-changer in the fight against antibiotic resistance

New Lab Matters (cover): A game-changer in the fight against antibiotic resistance

Given the global rise of drug-resistant pathogens over the past few decades, some physicians and scientists warn of a possible antibiotic apocalypse—a scary, post-antibiotic era. But a $160 million CDC effort now aims to keep antibiotic resistance rare. And as our feature article shows, the “game-changing” keystone of this effort is the Antibiotic Resistance Laboratory Network.

Here are just a few of this issue’s highlights:

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Self-directed regional networks: Connecting neighbors strengthens labs

The Pacific Rim Consortium met in person for the first time at the Hawaii Public Health Laboratory in March, 2019.

(Photo: The Pacific Rim Consortium met in person for the first time at the Hawaii Public Health Laboratory in March, 2019.)

How can a public health laboratory with limited resources sustain and expand its capabilities? One strategy is to leverage the resources and expertise of its neighbors.

With support from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), APHL is assisting with development of self-directed regional laboratory networks (SDRN) to facilitate collaboration and resource management among neighboring public health and environmental laboratories. SDRNs operate independently, establishing their own governance and strategic priorities based on their unique needs. Soon these networks will be linked through a Coordination Council, which will bring together representatives from each of the SDRNs for joint planning and resource development.

A growing community of networks

Today, 48 states and one territory, Guam, are members of an SDRN. The original SDRN was founded over forty years ago when laboratory directors in New England came together in the mid-1970s to share common concerns around newborn screening legislation then pending in multiple states. This group evolved to become the New England Public Health Laboratory Directors Group (NEPHLD), and then became NEEPHLD when it expanded its constituency to include laboratories responsible for environmental testing.

However, the regional model did not pick up momentum until a review by APHL and CDC demonstrated its value in the early 2000s. This provided the impetus to form the Northern Plains Consortium in 2006, the Southeast Consortium in 2015, the Mid-Atlantic Consortium in 2017, and the Midwest, Pacific Rim, Four Corners and Central Plains networks in 2018 and 2019.

Members “have our back”

SDRN member laboratories report many benefits from participation. Members share technical expertise, technologies and capacity, and they forge relationships with colleagues at other laboratories, making it easier to collaborate when emergencies arise or a testing system goes down. Emily Travanty, PhD, scientific director of the Laboratory Services Division at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reports: “Our fellow consortium members have our back when we need them. For example, the Utah Public Health Laboratory did TB testing for us when our laboratory was in the midst of renovations. Because of them, we were able to still meet our test turn-around times and keep our customers happy.”

Members also collaborate on fundraising, informatics systems, training and leadership development, as well as recruitment and retention. According to Denise Toney, PhD, director of the Virginia Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services:

“The Mid-Atlantic Consortium provides a venue to share ideas, resources and expertise across our region so we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. One project we worked on collectively was a compensation study, funded by CDC and APHL. Our members are using this data to educate their own state leaders about the salary levels needed to recruit and retain top-notch scientific staff in our region.”

SDRNs show strong prospects for the future, with planning in progress within and across networks. With sustainability a perennial challenge for state and local laboratories, that’s good news for public health.

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New Lab Matters: The promise and challenge of newborn screening in 2019

New Lab Matters cover depicts a newborn baby

Newborn screening is a public health success story, ongoing for 56 years. On the one hand, new treatment and laboratory testing options open up the possibility of expanded screening panels. On the other hand, testing laboratories and follow-up providers are generally under-resourced and straining to keep pace with growing workloads. But as our feature article shows, scientists are working diligently to improve the accuracy and precision of existing tests and to bring on new disorders, even as they continue the high-stakes work of screening tens of thousands of infants a year.

Here are just a few of this issue’s highlights:

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2019 APHL Annual Meeting: Day 3

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha speaks at the APHL annual meeting

Today was day three of the annual meeting! We started the day with awards ceremony and concluded with the member assembly, listening to many great speakers in between. For many, the highlight was the Dr. Katherine Kelley Distinguished Lecture delivered by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha. Dr. Mona is a pediatrician, scientist, researcher, activist and author of What the Eyes Don’t See. Her research and the work of her team exposed the deliberate effort to cover up the Flint water crisis and the lead poisoning of Flint, Michigan’s children.

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APHL honors public health leaders at 2019 annual meeting

Award winners

The Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL) is pleased to announce the winners of its annual awards for outstanding achievements in laboratory science, creative approaches to solving today’s public health challenges and exemplary support of laboratories serving the public’s health. Awardees were honored during a ceremony at the 2019 APHL Annual Meeting in St. Louis, Missouri. Congratulations to all award winners!

The following awards were presented:

Healthiest Laboratory Award – This award is given to an APHL member laboratory that is committed to safety, environmental process, environmental policy and employee health and wellness.

Thomas E. Maxson Education, Training and Workforce Development Award – This award was established in August of 1998 in memory of Dr. Maxson, and honors an APHL member who is a public health or clinical laboratory practitioner, trainer or educator who has made significant contributions to public health laboratory practice by creating, delivering or developing continuing education opportunities, programs, policies or practices for the laboratory community. For the first time, the Maxson award was presented at the Public Health Laboratory Training Conference in April.

On the Front Line Award – This award honors an individual or organization outside of the association’s membership who makes significant contributions to APHL, its membership and mission.

Emerging Leader Award – This award honors an individual whose leadership has been instrumental in one or more advances in laboratory science, practice, management, policy or education within his or her first five to ten years in the profession.

Leadership in Biosafety and Biosecurity Award – This award honors a laboratory scientist with over 10 years of related service in the field of biosafety and biosecurity in a state and/or local public health laboratory.

Silver Award – This award honors a laboratory scientist with 10 to 15 years of service in a governmental public health laboratory that is recognized as a leader both within their home laboratory as well as external to their laboratory. This year we have two recipients of the Silver Award.

Gold Standard Award – This award recognizes an individual who makes or has made significant contributions to the technical advancement of public health laboratory science and/or practice.

Champion of the Public Health Laboratory Award – This award honors federal, state and local elected officials and executive branch employees who have recognized the importance of state and local governmental laboratories that perform testing of public health significance either through support of legislation or federal agency decisions.

Presidential Award – This award recipient is selected by APHL’s president and given to individuals who have made significant contributions to the Association’s work to promote policies that strengthen public health laboratories. This year there are two award winners.

Lifetime Achievement Award – This award recognizes an individual who has established a history of distinguished service to APHL, made significant contributions to the advancement of public health laboratory science or practice, exhibited leadership in the field of public health, and/or positively influenced public health policy on a national or global level.

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2019 APHL Annual Meeting: Day 2

Networking at the APHL annual meeting

It was another great day at the annual meeting in St. Louis! As the attendees interviewed on this episode will share, some of the highlights included Poster Speed Dating, learning about new technology from exhibitors and, of course, networking.

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