Public Health & Tropical Medicine

Public Health Surveillance

Public Health Surveillance

Public health surveillance is a scientific tool to collect, analyse and interpret health related data through evaluation and implementation of public health practices to prevent and control various diseases and injuries. The surveillance empowers decision makers, donors, ministry of finance or health to effectively manage and promote timely evidence based solutions.

Public health surveillance is a systematic continuous process to estimate the behaviour and health status of the population. The surveillance systems can be passive i.e. regular reporting of diseases by all territorial health facilities or active i.e. visiting health facilities or health care providers and reviewing medical records to identify diseases.Passive surveillance systems has risk of under-reporting certain diseases but they are time-efficient and cost-effective. Active surveillance systems eliminates targeted disease and are best suited for epidemic conditions.

Objectives of Public Health Surveillance

Factual and scientific database are essential for informed decision making of appropriate action in public health surveillance. Recognizing the useful data from surveillance systems for effectively evaluating programs and utilising resources is important. The main reason for collecting, analyzing, interpreting and disseminating information is prevention and control of diseases. Collection and analysis of data should be followed by an appropriate action using available resources. The immediate, annual, and archival utility of surveillance data determines the public health actions undertaken. The surveillance information is collected, analyzed on the basis of place, time, and person. Summarizing and presenting data as tables and graphs is most beneficial.

To provide necessary interventions on the basis of valid information is the key objective of public health surveillance. The fundamental principle is that the on the basis of valid information, surveillance should be appropriately designed and implemented by decision makers in a timely and cost effective manner. The implementation and design of surveillance system depends on the public health objectives and actions to make interventionssuccessful. The type of public health action determines the type of surveillance and health information system which in turn depends on the information collected and includes continuous monitoring of the action. The surveillance system involves steps that allow constant and continuous adaptation to population, physical, social and environmental changes. A functional public health system needs robust public health surveillance.

Public Health Surveillance Professionals

The surveillance information improves the effectiveness and efficiency of target interventions on health services, policies and program units and assesses their effect on the population. Knowledgeable and trained technical personnel identify, review and ensure that valid surveillance information or data get regularly conveyed to the top managers. Timely dissemination of valid, focused and scientifically collected surveillance data to policy makers is critical to implement appropriate policies or programs.

Competent professional are required to provide and evaluate scientifically valid surveillance data or information and communicate appropriate action. They need to provide sound information in timely manner for evidence based decision making on the type of interventions to be employed in order to improve the health of the population. They use developed and tested surveillance systems as important tools for monitoring, targeting and evaluating health risks. The professionals use public health surveillance system as a management tool and balance political support, human or financial resources. Epidemiologists and surveillance members are a necessity for rational planning and implementing intervention in developing countries.

The public health system employs competent and motivated health workers after appropriate training and supervision. There are courses that educate on the uses of public health surveillance methods and systems, types of systems available and sources or handling of surveillance data.

Global Public Health Surveillance

A global surveillance system links national health care systems through media, laboratories, institutions and health organizations that focus on preventing and controlling a disease worldwide. Individual countries need to coordinate surveillance systems for preventing and controlling disease burden by establishing public health priorities, policies and programs. Ministries, international organizations or donors, public and health agencies need to transform laboriously collected surveillance data to meaningful measures that maintain public health status and provide early warnings for preventing or controlling devastating outbreaks.

The future depends on critical surveillance content and commitment funding partners and multilateral organizations of the countries to invest in surveillance system data collection and infrastructure for timely decision making. The future vision requires sharing surveillance technology; organizational and political coordination; developing public health infrastructure; removing various barriers and economic limitations, increasing research efforts; improving privacy and system security; overcoming challenges of disease and poverty.

Online Course in Tropical Medicine, Surveillance and Immunization

James Lind Institute (JLI) provides an online program Advanced Diploma in Tropical Medicine, Surveillance and Immunization that helps train public health professionals in the surveillance tools, strategies and policies related to tropical public health. JLI also provides an online MPH program in collaboration with Universit telematica internazionale Uninettuno.

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