Overcome scarcity

YVONNE CLAUDIO is executive director of the National Association for Public Health Information Technology (NAPHIT), Rockville, Md., USA. NAPHIT creates a venue for public health IT leaders to exchange ideas, discuss and shape current public health information policy, and learn about tools and technologies to help them better support public health.


photography by CHARLES LEDFORD



Everyone working in public health agencies recognizes that resources are extremely limited and that waste comes at considerable cost. In such an environment, opportunities to gain funding for projects are extremely rare. When government funding does become available, project budgets are tight, resources are limited and timelines are strict. Schedule slippage or going over budget risks not only the available funding for the specific project, but likely jeopardizes the health department's ability to access resources for follow-up or related projects.

It is incumbent upon public health managers to demonstrate a successful project management history, one that proves their success to financial backers and builds the case for health departments to be granted funding for additional projects. Given this environment, National Association for Public Health Information Technology (NAPHIT) strongly advocates adoption of formal project management in health departments. This summer, it held two sessions on project management: a members’ conference call and a Webinar for further discussion.

Because consultants typically are brought in to lead projects, there is an even stronger case for building project management competencies in health departments. With such a skills base, health department staff can assure the effective oversight of projects entrusted to outsiders and ensure that scarce resources are effectively and efficiently used to complete projects as planned.

NAPHIT’s executive committee partnered with PMI’s Healthcare Project Management Specific Interest Group (SIG) as a first step to advocate project management in health departments. Through this partnership, our members gained access to the SIG’s resources. Its experts have presented at our project management sessions, computer-based training has been made available to our membership, and SIG leadership has agreed to participate at NAPHIT’s annual conference next May.

We believe that the CIO’s office can be the conduit to educating health department managers about project management strategies and serve as a resource to our many program managers who lead and implement projects. Creating a centralized project management unit in the state and larger health departments leverages expertise across our public health organizations.

Full adoption of project management principles in public health departments is proving critical to ensure our ability to undertake successful projects, to gain access to additional support and to effectively use our scarce resources.

Health departments’ investment in project management makes a tremendous impact. In departments that have instituted project management principles, an understanding of projects and project strategies:

■ Strengthens the quality of written proposals

■ Affects better use of scarce funds by managing tasks, schedules, staff, budget and risks

■ Demonstrates to funding agencies the capacity to complete projects successfully

■ Builds the case for continued and additional funding of projects.

In essence, full adoption of project management principles in public health departments is proving critical to ensure our ability to undertake successful projects, to gain access to additional support and to effectively use our scarce resources. PM




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