The world is becoming healthier. Since the end of World War II, life expectancy in most developed and developing countries has increased by almost 25 years. This increase is the greatest seen in the history of the world. It has been estimated that almost 24 years of the 25-year increase are the result of improvements in public health and disease prevention. Such activities include improving sanitation, immunizing more people, bettering maternal and child health, and promoting healthier lifestyles. We in public health have been doing something right. How can we maintain these advances and improve public health in the 21st century beyond what has been achieved to this point? The answer lies in the information superhighway (R.E. LaPorte et al., British Medical Journal, 308:1651-2, 1994).

A major component of public health and disease prevention is information exchange. Almost all public health preventive actions-such as undertaking surveillance of infectious...

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