Disease surveillance involves a constellation of information systems that identify and record health related outcomes. Collectively, these systems provide raw data for descriptive epidemiology that is vital for a number of important public health functions, including:
- Monitoring and reporting on the health status and health related behaviors in populations,
- Identifying emerging health problems,
- Alerting us to potential threats from bioterrorism,
- Establishing public health priorities for a population,
- Evaluating the effectiveness of intervention programs, and
- Exploring potential associations between "risk factors" and health outcomes in order to generate hypotheses about the determinants of disease.
After successfully completing this unit, the student will be able to:
- Describe and give examples of the role of surveillance systems in public health.
- Identify surveys and data sets that are available for public health related research.
- Describe the disease reporting pathway for Massachusetts and the US federal government.
- Explain what is meant by the term "notifiable disease" (or "reportable disease").
- Describe the breadth of modern public health surveillance systems and give specific examples.
- Define "syndromic surveillance" and explain how syndromic surveillance can be advantageous over regular surveillance.