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Proposal of a framework for evaluating military surveillance systems for early detection of outbreaks on duty areas

Jean-Baptiste Meynard1*, Herve Chaudet2, Andrew D Green3, Henry L Jefferson4, Gaetan Texier5, Daniel Webber6, Bruce Dupuy1 and Jean-Paul Boutin5

Author Affiliations

1 Institut Pasteur de la Guyane, Avenue Pasteur, Cayenne, French Guiana

2 Université de la Méditerranée, Boulevard Jean Moulin, Marseilles, France

3 Defence Medical Services Department, London, UK

4 Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Liverpool, UK

5 Institut de Médecine Tropicale du service de santé des armées, Parc du Pharo, Marseilles, France

6 Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, Porton Down, UK

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BMC Public Health 2008, 8:146  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-8-146

Published: 30 April 2008



In recent years a wide variety of epidemiological surveillance systems have been developed to provide early identification of outbreaks of infectious disease. Each system has had its own strengths and weaknesses. In 2002 a Working Group of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) produced a framework for evaluation, which proved suitable for many public health surveillance systems. However this did not easily adapt to the military setting, where by necessity a variety of different parameters are assessed, different constraints placed on the systems, and different objectives required. This paper describes a proposed framework for evaluation of military syndromic surveillance systems designed to detect outbreaks of disease on operational deployments.


The new framework described in this paper was developed from the cumulative experience of British and French military syndromic surveillance systems. The methods included a general assessment framework (CDC), followed by more specific methods of conducting evaluation. These included Knowledge/Attitude/Practice surveys (KAP surveys), technical audits, ergonomic studies, simulations and multi-national exercises. A variety of military constraints required integration into the evaluation. Examples of these include the variability of geographical conditions in the field, deployment to areas without prior knowledge of naturally-occurring disease patterns, the differences in field sanitation between locations and over the length of deployment, the mobility of military forces, turnover of personnel, continuity of surveillance across different locations, integration with surveillance systems from other nations working alongside each other, compatibility with non-medical information systems, and security.


A framework for evaluation has been developed that can be used for military surveillance systems in a staged manner consisting of initial, intermediate and final evaluations. For each stage of the process parameters for assessment have been defined and methods identified.


The combined experiences of French and British syndromic surveillance systems developed for use in deployed military forces has allowed the development of a specific evaluation framework. The tool is suitable for use by all nations who wish to evaluate syndromic surveillance in their own military forces. It could also be useful for civilian mobile systems or for national security surveillance systems.