This article is part of the supplement: Proceedings of the 2007 Disease Surveillance Workshop. Disease Surveillance: Role of Public Health Informatics

Open Access Proceedings

Challenges in the implementation of an electronic surveillance system in a resource-limited setting: Alerta, in Peru

Giselle Soto1*, Roger V Araujo-Castillo1, Joan Neyra1, Miguel Fernandez2, Carlos Leturia3, Carmen C Mundaca1 and David L Blazes1

Author Affiliations

1 Emerging Infections Program, U.S. Naval Medical Research Center Detachment (NMRCD), Lima, Peru

2 Centro Medico Naval, Lima, Peru

3 Dirección de Epidemiologia del Ejército, Lima, Peru

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BMC Proceedings 2008, 2(Suppl 3):S4  doi:

Published: 14 November 2008



Infectious disease surveillance is a primary public health function in resource-limited settings. In 2003, an electronic disease surveillance system (Alerta) was established in the Peruvian Navy with support from the U.S. Naval Medical Research Center Detachment (NMRCD). Many challenges arose during the implementation process, and a variety of solutions were applied. The purpose of this paper is to identify and discuss these issues.


This is a retrospective description of the Alerta implementation. After a thoughtful evaluation according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, the main challenges to implementation were identified and solutions were devised in the context of a resource-limited setting, Peru.


After four years of operation, we have identified a number of challenges in implementing and operating this electronic disease surveillance system. These can be divided into the following categories: (1) issues with personnel and stakeholders; (2) issues with resources in a developing setting; (3) issues with processes involved in the collection of data and operation of the system; and (4) issues with organization at the central hub. Some of the challenges are unique to resource-limited settings, but many are applicable for any surveillance system. For each of these challenges, we developed feasible solutions that are discussed.


There are many challenges to overcome when implementing an electronic disease surveillance system, not only related to technology issues. A comprehensive approach is required for success, including: technical support, personnel management, effective training, and cultural sensitivity in order to assure the effective deployment of an electronic disease surveillance system.