Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Informational privacy protections: Do state laws offer public health leaders the flexibility they need?
by O'Connor, Jean C., Dr.P.H., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2009, 137; 3387969
Abstract (Summary)

Some scholars have argued that there is a tension between privacy and the public’s health. This study explores that tension in a contemporary context by examining the current status of informational privacy laws and by inquiring whether current state statutes are adequate to protect the privacy of public health information during a time when terrorism and globalization appears to be forcing a choice between liberty and security. Two methods were used in this study: (1) a point-in-time policy analysis of state public health privacy laws using criteria previously established by a panel of public health privacy experts; and (2) key informant interviews with federal officials, national organizations, and state health officials and privacy officers. The findings suggested that despite much attention over the past decade, including the development of model state statutes, few states have laws that comprehensively address both public health privacy and disclosure. Both federal and state officials viewed privacy protections for health-related data as important and recognized the tension between privacy interests and the need to share information. Sociopolitical factors and interest groups have driven change in the laws of some states while other states have made few changes to their laws over the past decade. State officials suggested that state public health privacy statutes, where they exist at all, are generally adequate for state public health practice. However, both state and federal officials suggested state laws are sometimes barriers to the inter-jurisdictional sharing of information and may present challenges in the future as federal policies promoting the electronic sharing of health-related information are implemented. And, federal and state key informants acknowledged that the lack of uniformity in laws and practices related to the acquisition, use, and storage of public health information across states is a source of confusion for individuals, health care providers, and government agencies. A universal framework for protecting the privacy of public health information may be useful or necessary and with health reform imminent, the development of electronic medical records, and a pandemic of a novel influenza virus, there may be a window of opportunity to develop policies supporting such a framework.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Ricketts, Tom
Commitee: Khan, Ali, Matthews, Gene, Oberlander, Jon, Silberman, Pam
School: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Department: Health Policy And Management
School Location: United States -- North Carolina
Source: DAI-B 71/01, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Public health, Health care management
Keywords: Law, Policy, Privacy protections, Public health leaders
Publication Number: 3387969
ISBN: 978-1-109-54683-5
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