JoCo opts into disease data platform

Josephine County is partnering with the Southern Oregon Education Services District to implement the Southern Oregon Public Health Illness Guidance, or SOPHI, a web-based platform that will streamline the process of collecting student and staff communicable disease symptom data.
According to a scope of work report published late last year, SOPHI will also “allow local public health departments to review the data and respond appropriately to potential outbreaks of communicable diseases.
“Although the disease of greatest concern is currently COVID-19, we are building this tool to be useful beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.”
At the Oct. 5 weekly business session of the Board of Josephine County Commissioners, JoCo Public Health Director Michael Weber discussed the intergovernmental agreement that signs the county up for SOPHI.
“There is a system that’s pretty much always been in place where schools let Public Health know when certain types of illnesses or symptoms are popping up,” Weber said.
“It allows us to do early detection for things like norovirus, which is how we caught that outbreak a few years ago.
“All this is is a program that’s already been paid for. We’re just signing into an agreement with other counties in Southern Oregon. We’re going to offer it to schools, and it’s a system where they can more easily input the information. Essentially prior to this, every school handled it differently… This just kind of standardizes it.”
Weber stated that Klamath County came up with the vast majority of funding for SOPHI, and Jackson County is also onboard.
The Public Health director also explained how the intergovernmental partnership originated: “A couple years ago in one of our education coronation meetings we hold as Public Health, this sort of became a conversation of, ‘How are you all doing this? How do you do it?’ and we started to have a discussion of how we can have a more centralized system that’s more easy and accessible and how do we take a brick out of the schools’ path.”
Weber noted that the SOPHI platform has been fully developed. It is slated for launch early next year.
The scope of work report describes the platform’s magnitude as follows:
“Initially, the platform will serve approximately 52,000 students in three counties. Those students are in about 110 schools and 13 districts. Because we need unique user accounts for each school, the nurse for each district (there are more than one for some districts), at least one person at each LPHA, and one or two super users, we will be creating more than 200 unique user accounts.”
“After a successful roll-out of this project, we plan to move into Phase 2, which would be the development of a mobile app that would allow parents/caregivers to provide information about a child’s absence and symptoms,” the report stated. “This would expedite the process as front office staff wouldn’t need to collect this information. This Phase is not included in this scope of work, but is included here as a reference to the intended trajectory of this project.”