Today, I started a new job as Executive Director of NCB-Prepared. That stands for the North Carolina Bio-Preparedness Collaborative. For those following at home, that is a partnership (as of this writing) of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University, and SAS Institute to develop a new biosurveillance system for the state. It's funded by the US Department of Homeland Security. The idea is to create a system at the state level that will serve leaders at the local and national levels as well. Starting with a single state allows us to leverage existing systems and organizational relationships in the development of a new system.
But you may be wondering what biosurveillance is. Good question. Officially, it's "the process of active data-gathering with appropriate analysis and interpretation of biosphere data that might relate to disease activity and threats to human or animal health – whether infectious, toxic, metabolic, or otherwise, and regardless of intentional or natural origin – in order to achieve early warning of health threats, early detection of health events, and overall situational awareness of disease activity" as expressed in Presidential Directive 21 in 2007. Still awake? Actually, it means watching the biosphere for threats to human health. The threats can be natural, such as avian flu moving from birds to humans, or human-made, such as mailing anthrax spores to members of Congress.
How do we watch out for these threats? That's the job of NCB-Prepared. Big job.