Public Health Surveillance

Public Health surveillance is defined as the ongoing systematic collection, analysis and interpretation of health data essential for planning, implementing, and evaluating public health activities, closely integrated with timely dissemination of the data to enable effective and efficient action to be taken to prevent and control disease (CDC and WHO).

Surveillance ranges from an individual approach with notifiable diseases to a population-based approach that involves continuous or repeated surveys of representative samples of the population, to aggregate data for recording trends on risk factors, disease and economic activity.

Surveillance may be used to:

  • Recognize cases or clusters of cases, to trigger interventions to prevent transmission or reduce morbidity and mortality.
  • Identify new health conditions and emerging diseases.
  • Assess public health impact of health events, and measure trends.
  • Measure risk factors associated with the disease in order to prevent the onset of disease.
  • Demonstrate the need for intervention programs and resources.
  • Allocate resources during health planning.
  • Monitor effectiveness and evaluate the impact of prevention and control measures, intervention tactics and strategies, as well as health policy changes.
  • Identify high-risk population groups or geographic areas.
  • Provide valid data for research and interventions, to develop hypotheses that lead to analytic studies about risk factors for disease causation, propagation or transmission.
  • Provide data useful to assess and analyzed disease outbreaks to establish control and prevention activities.

Surveillance provides data that is useful at the local, state, and national level to lead to early detection of local epidemics that could involve loss of life, identify high-risk populations, measure trends in risk factors and disease, conduct complicated analysis and epidemiological studies to determine associations between risk factors and outcomes, and also to monitor effectiveness of specific interventions y programs.

All these data are collected, analyzed, distributed and reported to be used for planning, and implementing interventions and programs that will target public health problems through public health actions that improve wellness within communities, populations, and nations.

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