Building environmental health capacity in the cloud.

Author:Booth, Darryl
Position::BUILDING CAPACITY
 
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Editor's Note: A need exists within environmental health agencies to increase their capacity to perform in an environment of diminishing resources. With limited resources and increasing demands, we need to seek new approaches to the business of environmental health.

Acutely aware of these challenges, NEHA has initiated a partnership with Accela called Building Capacity. Building Capacity is a joint effort to educate, reinforce, and build upon successes within the profession, using technology to improve efficiency and extend the impact of environmental health agencies.

The Journal is pleased to publish this bimonthly column from Accela that will provide readers with insight into the Building Capacity initiative, as well as be a conduit for fostering the capacity building of environmental health agencies across the country.

The conclusions of this column are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of NEHA.

Darryl Booth is senior vice president and general manager of environmental health at Accela and has been monitoring regulatory and data tracking needs of agencies across the U.S. for almost 20 years. He serves as technical advisor to NEHA's informatics and technology section.

I vividly recall taking apart and repairing a file server in the late 1980s. It was physically huge and terribly bulky with sharp steel corners. Its total storage was nothing compared to contemporary hardware. We "techies" waited around all night for the thing to come back to life so that staff could work the next morning without interruption. These repairs were exhilarating projects before the Internet was generally available.

As I began my career directing software solutions for health departments, I remember meeting a customer who mounted their file server in the closet. Yes, there was a storage closet in their basement office (near the metal file cabinets) with unkempt network cables connecting that 4 [ft.sup.2] space through the ceiling tiles to the various IBM personal computers--you know, the ones with two big floppy drives in the front.

During that time (the mid-1990s), it was a boon to have one's own server. It meant that the health department was no longer beholden to the keepers of the mainframe systems that dominated the statewide system at the time. It meant independence. It meant that the health department could add users, create new programs, change fees, and design reports without going (one of my favorite expressions)...

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