Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Public Health and BioMed Central.

Open Access Research article

A surveillance sector review applied to infectious diseases at a country level

Michael G Baker*, Sally Easther and Nick Wilson

Author Affiliations

Department of Public Health, University of Otago, Wellington 23 Mein St, Newtown, Wellington, New Zealand

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Public Health 2010, 10:332  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-332

Published: 11 June 2010

Abstract

Background

The new International Health Regulations (IHR) require World Health Organization (WHO) member states to assess their core capacity for surveillance. Such reviews also have the potential to identify important surveillance gaps, improve the organisation of disparate surveillance systems and to focus attention on upstream hazards, determinants and interventions.

Methods

We developed a surveillance sector review method for evaluating all of the surveillance systems and related activities across a sector, in this case those concerned with infectious diseases in New Zealand. The first stage was a systematic description of these surveillance systems using a newly developed framework and classification system. Key informant interviews were conducted to validate the available information on the systems identified.

Results

We identified 91 surveillance systems and related activities in the 12 coherent categories of infectious diseases examined. The majority (n = 40 or 44%) of these were disease surveillance systems. They covered all categories, particularly for more severe outcomes including those resulting in death or hospitalisations. Except for some notifiable diseases and influenza, surveillance of less severe, but important infectious diseases occurring in the community was largely absent. There were 31 systems (34%) for surveillance of upstream infectious disease hazards, including risk and protective factors. This area tended to have many potential gaps and lack integration, partly because such systems were operated by a range of different agencies, often outside the health sector. There were fewer surveillance systems for determinants, including population size and characteristics (n = 9), and interventions (n = 11).

Conclusions

It was possible to create and populate a workable framework for describing all the infectious diseases surveillance systems and related activities in a single developed country and to identify potential surveillance sector gaps. This is the first stage in a review process that will lead to identification of priorities for surveillance sector development.