Missouri has launched a statewide Internet-based communications system linking hospitals, emergency services providers, public health agencies and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. The EMSystem is meant to allow healthcare providers to immediately communicate their ability to handle casualties in mass disasters, and it can use satellite-based telecommunications if ground lines are damaged or overloaded. The Missouri Hospital Association is providing startup funding of $219,000, and the state health department is financing satellite backup capabilities. Federal bioterrorism grants will provide an additional $179,000 in the program's second year. "To the best of our knowledge, Missouri is the first state in the nation to link all its hospitals, emergency services providers and key government health agencies with a communications system of this kind," said William Schoenhard, MHA chairman and executive vice president and COO of SSM Health Care, St. Louis.
Meanwhile, Missouri will receive the largest grant awarded -- $800,000 -- in a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention program to track environmental risk factors and their effect on public health nationwide. The program includes direct electronic reporting of data on environmental factors, including chemicals and biological toxins, and "health effects," including birth defects, asthma, cancer and carbon monoxide poisoning. The CDC has awarded more than $14 million in grants to 20 state and local health departments and three schools of public health as part of the initiative. -- by Julie Piotrowski