The federal government, through the National Center for Health Statistics and Department of Health and Human Services, fields a number of national health surveys, including the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), and National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Most of the data collected are publicly available and do not contain protected health information, yet researchers at the Department of Veterans Affairs - and presumably other federal agencies - must go through a full privacy, research and development (R&D), and institutional review board (IRB) review in order to use these de-identified datasets. The review process requires a multitude of forms and takes time away from both researchers and privacy/R&D/IRB staff to complete and review them. In addition, the review process slows the analysis and publication of data based on these useful public health surveillance systems. I recommend that an agreement/MOU be established that allows for more expedient approval and use of federal health survey data by federal researchers.
Idea No. 8073