What is Surveillance?
Surveillance takes many forms in our modern world. Public Health surveillance has evolved from activities to control and prevent disease within the community. According to the CDC, public health surveillanceis “the systematic collection, analysis, interpretation, and dissemination of health data on an ongoing basis, to gain knowledge of the pattern of disease occurrence and potential in a community, in order to control and prevent disease in the community.”
Surveillance \ser-va-lens\ n [F] : close watch; also : SUPERVISION.1
Historically, the idea of observing, recording, and collecting facts, analyzing them, and considering reasonable courses of action stems back to the time of Hippocrates2. Currently, governement officials at the local, state and national levels are attempting to better integrate public health surveillance systems to better meet public health needs for timely analysis, interpretation, application, and dissemination of reportable conditions.
The primary purposes for this surveillance fall into the following categories:
q Management of persons exposed to disease
q Identify disease outbreaks
q Accurate diagnosis & treatment
q Guide population-based prevention programs2
1 Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 1998.
2 Birkhead G, Maylahn C. Principles and Practice of Public Health Surveillance Oxford University Press, 2000.