CDC uses online data to spread info like the plague

Friday - 11/5/2010, 9:31am EDT

Amy Burnette, Program Director for CDC Info, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Click here to listen to the interview.

Download mp3

By Jolie Lee
Federal News Radio

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is using online tools to collect data, inform the public of health-related issues and possibly even predict future outbreaks.

"We have lot of data and the challenge is to turn it into information," said Amy Burnett, the program director for CDC-INFO, a 24/7 center for people to call or e-mail health-related questions.

In 2009, CDC-INFO received more than 500,000 inquiries about everything from chronic illnesses to infectious diseases.

There is now a culture of people wanting to "know everything about everything," Burnett said. "We have to be prepared for that hunger of information," she said.

The data collected through CDC-INFO is provided to various CDC programs to help in program planning and outreach efforts, Burnett said.

The information could also potentially help predict future health outbreaks if, for example, there is a spike in inquiries about a certain disease in a certain location.

Social media is central is providing the constant feedback people require, particularly in a health outbreak. CDC set up interactive sites for its H1N1 campaign.

With its "goldmine" of information, the CDC's goal is to be "much more sophisticated with the real-time data analysis," Burnett said.