With all the information that is encountered in the day-to-day practice of public health, it is sometimes difficult to know if health information is being shared appropriately and in compliance with the law. It is important to seek the assistance of public health attorneys and privacy officers, but knowing which questions to ask or what information to gather can be confusing and difficult in itself.
Public health attorneys and privacy officers provide advice to public health agencies on an array of questions about collecting, accessing and sharing information. Questions practitioners may ask involve oral, written or electronic data. Responses by attorneys must consider whether a public health agency has the legal authority to collect, access or share information, and if so, what are the conditions and limitations for data sharing. In addition to legal considerations, policy and ethical concerns may be relevant. In some situations – for example, urgent threats of communicable disease – the public health agency might face competing interests of protecting individual privacy and protecting the public's health. Certain factual information about the data to be shared and the circumstances and conditions for sharing is needed to evaluate proposed data sharing.
This new tool provides a checklist to assist public health practitioners in providing relevant factual information to resolve questions about proposed data collection, access and sharing.