There were more panelists, more research, and more leaders than any one person could fully absorb in the three days of the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE) conference in Salt Lake City.

From sessions highlighting research on health disparities to experts sharing guidance on data modernization, attendees were energized and inspired by presentations aligned with the conference theme of “Epidemiology Elevated.”

There is no doubt. If this strong group of epidemiologists and public health professionals were given the resources that they need to do more of this important work, the country would be healthier. Even more importantly, health disparities would be addressed, and we would have a deeper understanding about the social factors at play when diseases like COVID impact our communities.

Here are two impactful assessments we took away from the conference:

  • Components for moving your data modernization strategy forward
  • Framework for addressing equity and chronic disease


Components for Your Data Modernization Strategy

In the “Don’t Be a Data Dinosaur” session, Katherine Feldman with the Maryland Department of Health emphasized that it is not only about the data. It is also about human capital and expertise, organizational structure and buy-in, and technology to reduce friction and increase analysis.

At Metopio, we see this every day.  Limited staffing at departments of all sizes, calcified and outdated processes in organizations that are barriers to adoption, and technology solutions that are static and don’t fit current needs.

Surveillance and informatics had a robust track of presentations at the conference to address these challenges. Many of the solutions to move forward are part of Metopio’s process of data discovery for new clients:

  • Assess data streams to break down siloes within and among teams or departments
  • Remove the burden of curating key public data sets that serve as a reference point
  • Identify critical hyper-local data sets that are in demand
  • Create a shared data governance structure that everyone can understand and follow

Balancing the time and expertise of staff with the right technology built on an agreed upon set of data parameters is critical. It will increase the speed, accuracy, and insights you can create to drive program design and evaluation over time.

Framework for Addressing Equity and Chronic Disease

Michele Casper, PhD, Senior Epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) assembled a panel of thoughtful researchers who use mapping to communicate about chronic disease and inspire action. The panelists all use a similar framework for combining disparate datasets to generate meaningful insights.

One challenge they all had to overcome in their research was having access to the right datasets. While GIS software is part of the equation, deploying a platform like Metopio enables you to access curated data from different sources and combine it with your own to conduct a deeper analysis and uncover new insights.

This is the framework they used to advance health equity for those who suffer with chronic diseases:

  • Develop research question and identify critical data sources
  • Document local level disparities and burden of chronic disease across a place or population
  • Identify gaps in access to healthcare and resources for chronic disease treatment
  • Use the maps and information to inform policy, programs and partnerships

While this may seem straightforward, collecting and curating these data can be all consuming and present an obstacle that makes It almost insurmountable to even begin this work.  Over 80% of a data scientist’s time is spent finding, cleaning and curating datasets for their research purposes.  What if that time could be spent on creating hyperlocal or new data to inform the process rather than simply curating existing data?

Continued Learning at Metopio

Smart epidemiologists and public health professionals are working closely with communities every day.  We are fortunate to partner with many of the industry leaders and learn from experts like those who attended CSTE this year.

That’s why we’re constantly looking for the latest best practices and ways we can share learnings that contribute to better health outcomes and help build more resilient communities.  Are you working on a project and need data quickly? Reach out and see if we might be able to support the important research work you do at