Veteran data expert and former department CIO Scott Christman has been appointed to oversee California’s public health data operation, the program that tracks birth, death and marriage certifications, among other things. The announcement came after last week’s high-profile COVID-19 data reporting glitch that reportedly cost the Public Health Director her job.
Christman, who is returning to government after a stint in the private sector, previously served as a project manager in the office that he now directs. He also previously served in key roles such as acting agency information officer for the California Health and Human Services Agency and CIO at the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development.
As deputy director for the Center for Health Statistics and Informatics at the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), he is the first non-medical doctor to hold the position. His predecessors include Jim Green, Linette Scott, and Este Geraghty, all MDs. In the department organizational chart, he is a peer to department CIO Gary Nodine. They both report to the chief deputy director.
Christman has been central in the state’s effort to develop open data policies and helped with the CDPH open data playbook, released in 2013, which evolved into the Statewide Open Data Playbook issued in 2015 by the Government Operations Agency.
Besides the recent reporting errors, for obvious reasons related to COVID-19, public health data has been a priority for the Newsom Administration. The governor recently announced CalCAT, a forecasting and assessment tool that is also intended to reach citizen scientists, achieving unprecedented levels of government transparency, a theme in his book Citizenville.
Also last week on behalf of CDPH, the California Department of Technology launched a “challenge” with the vendor community to rapidly develop a solution to create a “robust and automated solution to securely and accurately collect, store, analyze and publish COVID-19 electronic lab reporting and case data for our constituents.” according to the state’s COVID-19 website.
Christman starts the new position on September 1.