Reps. Scott Peters, D-Calif., Lucy McBath, D-Ga., Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., and Brian Fitzpatrick, D-Pa., introduced legislation August 21 to streamline COVID-19 data collection and management through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The Health Standards to Advance Transparency, Integrity, Science, Technology Infrastructure, and Confidential Statistics (Health STATISTICS) Act would direct the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to share the health data collected with the CDC and other public health agencies in a way that protects individual privacy. The secretary of HHS would act through CDC to designate the data standards and set a common reporting criteria for some data elements.

“We don’t have the granular data we need to strategically fight the virus or understand the unique risks and effects of COVID-19 on vulnerable populations,” Rep. Peters said of the motive behind the legislation. “Our bill would ensure vital information often missing from current reports, such as race or mortality data, is collected and shared accordingly so that patterns can be found and relief can be more rapidly deployed.”

As a part of the legislation, HHS would provide financial assistance to research and health departments to enhance statistical public health research. The Health STATISTICS Act also would create grants for state, local, and tribal governments to expand and modernize existing public health data systems.

“Access to reliable, high-quality public health data through the Health STATISTICS Act will serve as a North Star to guide public health officials,” Rep. Eshoo said. “Modernizing and standardizing public health reporting will reduce burdens on state and local public health departments and save money and lives.”

The legislation comes just two days after Reps. Eshoo, Frank Pallone, D-N.J., and Diana DeGette, D-Colo., asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to review the Trump administration’s recent order directing hospital data on the coronavirus to be reported to a private contractor through HHS rather than through the CDC.

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Katie Malone
Katie Malone
Katie Malone is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.