The Collaboration Center is a virtual/online collaboration platform within which a multi-institutional and interdisciplinary network of highly qualified and experienced HIV and related disease investigators can collaborate with public health practitioners including applied public health agency investigators specializing in surveillance and epidemiology, and translational and implementation science.
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BACKGROUND, RATIONALE AND SIGNIFICANCE (i.e. Why there is a need for a Collaboration Center to provide technical expertise in public health and related disciplines): Many public health agencies (incl. community partner-organizations) which serve communities adversely impacted by HIV and related epidemics have limited access to trained public health practitioners, epidemiologists, related expertise and technical support across multiple disciplines needed to:
- Assess public health threats and community needs, including surveillance of disease burden/risk (and behavioral risk factors thereof), monitoring and evaluation of health services rendered in response, and gaps/unmet needs for prevention, care and support services;
- Develop/use public health surveillance systems, epidemiology investigations, and prevention/care protocols to facilitate: a) timely screening of contacts and early detection, b) outbreak investigations and control thereof, and c) linkage to, and retention in programs for prevention and control of disease;
- Analyze data from public health surveillance and related epidemiology investigations, monitoring and evaluation, and other relevant sources to support evidence-based program planning, development and improvement of the epidemic response to meet changing demands for services;
- Conduct disease intervention epidemiology investigations which develop and pilot innovative public health intervention/practice protocols in support of continuous program improvement, and monitor and evaluate outcomes thereof;
- Develop and augment capacity to address the above-referenced needs;
ADDRESSING THE NEED: In response to the above, the Collaboration Center is actively bringing together a multi-institutional and interdisciplinary network of applied and translational 'communities of practice and expertise' consisting of faculty-preceptor teams of public health/community health agencies' practitioners and epidemiology investigators (with advanced formal training) partnering with implementation science researchers to develop/augment capacity of public health/community health agencies and the communities served to address the above-referenced needs/objectives. Towards fulfillment of the above objectives, the Collaboration Center develops/augments the capacity of public health agencies to address the above objectives through using models for program improvement and resource sharing which include:
- Consulting support for evidence-based planning;
- Epidemiology studies/investigations, pilot/demonstration projects, &/or learning collaboratives;
- Preceptored applied/in-service training and technical support, also incorporating quality assurance and continuing education through peer review; and
- Dissemination and translation using resource centers and virtual public libraries to facilitate open access to exchange of protocols and practices with demonstrated cost-effective results ('best practices') in support of dissemination and translation of disease control and prevention of HIV and related conditions.
Towards this end, the Collaboration Center's public health investigation and training cores have strategically positioned these resource development, sharing and exchange efforts as a virtual platform/facility (including a secure intranet portal) through which multi-institutional and interdisciplinary center associates and affiliates (faculty preceptors and in-service trainees), and other partners can come together and form virtual/online project teams/communities of practice and expertise to collaborate on public health investigations, in-service/practical training, and continuing education. The center facilitates the above-referenced common objectives through: i) collaborative resource development, sharing/exchange of resources such as protocols, toolkits, information systems, and other solutions; ii) sharing of logistics and online infrastructure such as online calendars for team events and continuing education webinars, tutorials, and discussion series; and iii) partnering with other related initiatives.
Intermediate benefits of the economies of scale which can be achieved within the multi-institutional framework of this virtual/online collaboration and resource sharing/exchange initiative include cost-savings resulting from decreases in ongoing waste of precious and limited resources (as often occurs when multiple public health jurisdictions working on similar problems or analyzing data from similarly formatted databases "reinvent the wheel" several fold). The transforming effects and collaboration benefits derived from increasing scale are captured by the Sufi saying:
"You think that if you understand one, you understand two-because one and one are two. But you must also understand 'and'."
The expectation is that the multi-institutional and interdisciplinary framework of the Collaboration Center will catalyze and fast-track the collaborative development, and open access sharing/exchange of innovative resources and knowledge base to advance the AIDS response (incl. related diseases) towards effective prevention, control and ultimate elimination of these syndermics.