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PHSkb: A knowledgebase to support notifiable disease surveillance

Timothy J Doyle1*, Haobo Ma1, Samuel L Groseclose1 and Richard S Hopkins12

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Public Health Surveillance and Informatics, Epidemiology Program Office, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); Atlanta, Georgia, USA

2 Bureau of Epidemiology, Florida Department of Health; Tallahassee, Florida, USA

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BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making 2005, 5:27  doi:10.1186/1472-6947-5-27

Published: 16 August 2005



Notifiable disease surveillance in the United States is predominantly a passive process that is often limited by poor timeliness and low sensitivity. Interoperable tools are needed that interact more seamlessly with existing clinical and laboratory data to improve notifiable disease surveillance.


The Public Health Surveillance Knowledgebase (PHSkb™) is a computer database designed to provide quick, easy access to domain knowledge regarding notifiable diseases and conditions in the United States. The database was developed using Protégé ontology and knowledgebase editing software. Data regarding the notifiable disease domain were collected via a comprehensive review of state health department websites and integrated with other information used to support the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System (NNDSS). Domain concepts were harmonized, wherever possible, to existing vocabulary standards. The knowledgebase can be used: 1) as the basis for a controlled vocabulary of reportable conditions needed for data aggregation in public health surveillance systems; 2) to provide queriable domain knowledge for public health surveillance partners; 3) to facilitate more automated case detection and surveillance decision support as a reusable component in an architecture for intelligent clinical, laboratory, and public health surveillance information systems.


The PHSkb provides an extensible, interoperable system architecture component to support notifiable disease surveillance. Further development and testing of this resource is needed.