Public Health Surveillance

Public Health Surveillance is an ongoing methodology used for collecting, analyzing and interpreting health related data that are essential for the process of planning, implementation and evaluation health practices (Herman 2007). Public Health Surveillance mainly serves as a warning system for the public regarding need for health emergencies. It also serves as a track system since it monitors epidemiology of the health problem experienced in a particular area. It also involves timely dissemination of data giving room for public health officers to set priorities before informing the public concerning the strategies to be used to solve the health problem affecting them. This means that Public Health Surveillance is an important tool used to prevent outbreak and spread of diseases through quick response. It is therefore crucial that health care workers be trained and equipped with the right technology and skills needed to conduct surveillance. This is because epidemics are a great threat to the public health and also to the economy since sick people are not able to work. Financial support and political commitment are required to ensure that every society have enough systems that could help detect, analyze and interpret any disease as soon as possible to avoid outbreak of the disease to the public.

Public Health Surveillance impact public health system in many ways. First surveillance provides accurate data that can be used at a local, national and state level to detect epidemics at an earlier stage to avoid loss of lives and spread of the disease (Herman 2007). Public Health Surveillance develops plans and policies that help support community health. They enforce laws and regulations to be followed by every individual in the community to keep them safe and healthy. Public Health Surveillance also assures competence among personal and public health care workforce. It also evaluates accessibility and effectiveness of population-based and personal health services.

Some of the components of surveillance include: sources of data which determines the geographical distribution of the disease and how many people have been infected. Knowing how far the disease has spread can enable the public take care of themselves by avoiding regions affected. The source of data also portrays history of the problem/disease. There is reporting mandates/directives as components of surveillance. They make the public aware of the disease and inform them of the rules and regulations that will keep them safe from the illness (Adams & Hirschfeld 1998). Other components include the surveillance staffs. They are responsible for detecting epidemics and also help define the problem to the community. Surveillance staffs are people who stimulate research on the problem and later on develop complete hypotheses concerning the problem affecting a particular society. They monitor if there are any changes in those who have been infected by the disease. Actually, surveillance staffs are the first people to detect changes in a society concerning their health practices and problems.

Reporting mechanism is another component of surveillance. It is the method used to report or inform the public about their health and also concerning the health problem affecting them. National reporting is also another component of surveillance. Today, newspapers, television, radio, satellites and social sites are the channels used to convey important issues affecting the society such as health problems (Douglas 2009). Case definition is also another component of surveillance that estimates and addresses the magnitude of the problem. How bad it is and which stage of the disease is extremely dangerous.

In conclusion, public health surveillance should use rigorous methods to address public health problems that are considered critical. This is because there is an increase in public health problems in both developed and developing nations. A global epidemic such as HIV/AIDs calls for incorporated worldwide networks that can be used to bring together researchers, health care practitioners and governments to address the problem.


Adams, O. & Hirschfeld, M. (1998). Human resources for health. Journal of World Health Statistics Quarterly, 51 (4), 28–32.

Douglas, S. (2009). Principles of public health practice 3rd ed. San Diego: Delmar Cengage Learning.

Herman, T. (2007). Public Health Surveillance Systems: Practice and Promise. Journal of Human Development, and the Role of eHealth, 9(4), 34-38.

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