Linking surveillance information to practice
A national surveillance system collects information about communicable diseases from all health facilities in the country. Surveillance is important at all levels of the health system, including your health facility. Each institution is responsible for sending reports about disease to health offices at a higher level, at the time specified by the health authorities. Reports contain information about the types of diseases seen, the numbers of people affected by the disease, and their age, sex, place of residence and so on. Based on these data, the top ten causes of illness and death in adults and in children under five years are determined.
Note that an important purpose of public health surveillance is to give you and other health professionals an 'early warning' so you can take rapid and effective action against epidemics of communicable diseases. You are part of the national surveillance system and you can obtain useful information about communicable diseases in your catchment area, which will help you to prevent and control infection more effectively.
In summary, the information collected from health facilities is useful to:
- Describe the magnitude and distribution of diseases by place, time and personal characteristics such as age and sex
- Allocate resources such as drugs based on the magnitude of diseases
- Identify epidemics in time before they spread
- Evaluate progress towards their control.
Remember that there is no reason to carry out surveillance if the data collected are not used to improve health programmes, or to deliver better services or to control diseases in the community. Your collection and interpretation of data should help you to take action, for example to control outbreaks related to food or waterborne diseases, measles, malaria and other types of infectious diseases common in your area.