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Risk Assessment Workgroup

Author: Kelly Reynolds, MSPH, Ph.D.

Healthcare associated infections (HAIs) account for over 700,000 infections, 75,000 deaths, and over $45 billion in direct medical cost annually in the US.1 Numerous studies have shown that these infections are related to contamination of the healthcare environment including: contaminated surfaces in patient’s rooms, clothing, aerosols and others. Additionally, often HAIs are associated with bacteria resistant to commonly used antibiotics (e.g. MRSA, and Clostridium difficile). Risk analysis provides a framework and approach that uses mathematical models to estimate or predict health impacts from the spread of pathogens through environments. Via specific exposure pathways risk models characterize population impacts (e.g. infection rates) and inform better risk management decisions. Similar modeling tools have been used by USDA, FDA, and USEPA to set regulatory guidelines for water and food borne pathogens. Healthcare is not currently utilizing this powerful computational tool.

Control of HAIs remain a significant problem for hospitals because evaluation of their pathways and intervention outcomes rely on expensive and time consuming epidemiological studies. The goal of this workgroup is to develop a transformational toolbox based on risk analysis to reduce HAIs and improve epidemiological studies.

Advancing this approach requires a synergy of expertise that has been difficult to bring together and rapidly progress with traditional funding mechanisms. Collaborations via the HITS Consortium aid in bringing together an interdisciplinary team of stakeholders from industry, academia, regulatory agencies, healthcare practice, and more, to develop and refine risk assessment frameworks for use in healthcare environments.

Key Benefits of risk assessment for healthcare and industry:

  • Improve the understanding of relationships among hospital acquired infection incidence/prevalence, healthcare surfaces, hygiene interventions, and human behaviors
  • Enables scenario analyses for rapid decision making
  • Evaluation of multiple intervention strategies with a single risk assessment model
  • Advancement of infection control protocols through optimization of hygiene interventions
  • Rapid assessment of new intervention product efficacy, under multiple scenarios
  • Reduce costs, time, and materials needed for product and intervention evaluation
  • Validation of models capable with field tracer studies
  • Streamlined product evaluation, and an expedited process for evidence based research to increase market awareness and acceptability


1Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016). HAI Data and Statistics. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/hai/surveillance/index.html

Group Leaders


Kelly Reynolds, MSPH, Ph.D.

Associate Professor and Program Director for Environmental and Occupational Health at the University of Arizona

Mark Weir, PhD

Assistant Professor in Environmental Health Sciences at the College of Public Helath at The Ohio State University

About HITS

The Healthcare Infections Transmission System (HITS) Consortium looks to promote public health by reducing healthcare-associated infections through the integration of best infection prevention practices. HITS will focus on the major pathogen transmission systems in the healthcare setting specifically; surfaces, person to person, water and air. Join us for this one-of-a-kind, multimodal event where researchers and experts from across disciplines will work toward identifying research gaps and applying data-driven methods in the field. Meet, greet and share ideas with the individuals and organizations who are growing and sustaining the industry, as we explore creative and innovative solutions to this global problem.

How is HITS different?

Our conference theme is Catalyst for Change. Fittingly, HITS will take a holistic perspective to targeting healthcare associated infections. The conference looks to focus on “hospital health.” By including multiple disciplines in the conversation, HITS looks to remove silos and encourage a systems approach, aligning with infection prevention.


NSF International University of Arizona The Infection Prevention Strategy

Kelly Reynolds, MSPH, Ph.D.

Author Kelly Reynolds, MSPH, Ph.D.

Dr. Kelly Reynolds is an Associate Professor in the Environmental and Occupational Health Section of the College of Public Health at the University of Arizona and Director of its Environment, Exposure Science and Risk Assessment Center. She has over 29 years of experience as a microbiologist in environmental health sciences and in directing a research program related to infectious disease transmission, microbiology, quantitative risk assessment, and public health policy and education. The relationship of fomite, hand and air contamination and pathogen survival characteristics relative to human health outcomes has been a common theme in Dr. Reynolds’ research. She has served as a principal investigator on numerous projects and published over 350 journal articles, book chapters and professional reports. Her work has been featured in over 50 popular media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, BuzzFeed and the Huffington Post. Recent projects involved the risk of MRSA transmission via hospital personnel scrubs, evaluation of an infection control intervention for first responders, development of infectious waste disposal protocols, tracking environmental microbiomes in long-term care facilities and testing methods for decontamination of soft surfaces in healthcare environments. Her team specializes in development of methods for tracking pathogen movement in healthcare environments and evolving predictive risk assessment models for determining pathogen spread, human exposure potentials, adverse health impacts and intervention efficacy. Dr. Reynolds’ expertise involves integrating academic research teams with medical personnel, clinical diagnostic laboratories, patients, industries and other stakeholders for a multidisciplinary approach toward research, communication and management efforts in infection prevention.

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