4.1 - Surveillance

Surveillance: Information for Action Section

"Good surveillance does not necessarily ensure the making of right decisions, but it reduces the chance of wrong ones."

Alexander D. Langmuir NEJM 1963;268;182-191.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have defined surveillance as follows:

"the ongoing systematic collection, analysis, and interpretation of data essential to the planning, implementation, and evaluation of public health practice, closely integrated with the timely dissemination of these data to those responsible for prevention and control ."

Disease surveillance information is useful for:

Estimating the magnitude of a problem
Determining the geographic distribution of illness
Portraying the natural history of a disease
Detecting epidemics or defining a problem

Example 1: Generating hypotheses, stimulating research

Example 2: Generating hypotheses, stimulating research

Evaluating control measures
Monitoring changes in infectious agents

Example 1: Detecting changes in health practices

Example 2: Detecting changes in health practices

Example 1: Facilitating planning

Example 2: Facilitating planning

Sources of surveillance data can include notifiable diseases, vital records (e.g. National Infant Mortality Surveillance, birth, death records), registry and survey data, administrative data bases (such as Medicare or a prescription database) and some laboratory records. In the U.S., the Integrated Surveillance Information Systems/National Electronic Disease Surveillance System has been developed to standardize health reporting and link laboratory, hospital and managed care data.