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07.05.2019 Feature Article

Epidemiologic Surveillance And Its Importance In Primary Health Care

What is Epidemiologic Surveillance?

Epidemiologic surveillance was defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as the “ongoing systematic collection, analysis, and interpretation of health data essential to the planning, implementation, and evaluation of public health practice closely integrated with the timely dissemination of these data to those who need to know.” Surveillance is an important task in primary health care because it provides data for monitoring diseases and without correct and accurate data diseases would be misunderstood, while health care programs scheduled for certain places would be futile while the distribution of resources would be wrongly allocated. The main purpose of surveillance is to try and detect the origin of a disease in order to predict and prevent human illnesses. It is a very systemic and continuous process.

Forms of Epidemiologic Surveillance

This is in two forms. They are active and passive surveillance. Active surveillance refers to a system where health officials are recruited to make periodic visits to health care facilities such as clinics and hospitals in order to identify new cases of diseases or the number of deaths that have occurred due to a particular disease. Activities performed in active surveillance may include interviewing physicians and patients, reviewing medical records, and surveying villages and

towns to detect cases either periodically on a routine basis or after an epidemic. Passive on the other hand is the surveillance in which available data on reportable diseases are used with the responsibility for the reporting often falling on the health care provider or district health official. It is less accurate as compared to active surveillance.

What is Primary Health Care?

According to World Health Organization, Primary Health Care is systematically addressing the broader determinants of health including social, economic, environmental as well as people’s characteristics and behaviors through evidence-informed public policies and actions across all sectors. It is simply making health care accessible to every individual irrespective of their social and economic status as well as the community they are based. Primary Health care is structured in a way as to meet the rapid economic, technological and demographic changes which will affect health and man’s wellbeing.

Importance of Surveillance in Primary Health Care

1. Epidemiologic surveillance allows primary health care to use equity indicators to improve healthcare for the poor, thereby achieving an effective and efficient health care system and moral objective. Indicators used are simple and measurable.

2. Epidemiologic surveillance serves as an early warning system for impending primary health care emergencies. Surveillance provides data in order for health professionals to plan ahead. Also, through active surveillance, surveying communities periodically helps to detect any emerging disease for actions to be taken.

3. Epidemiologic surveillance documents the impact of an intervention, or track progress towards specified goals. Interventions done are simple and inexpensive and it tackles only priority demonstrated needs. Also, in order to eradicate a certain disease, it is prudent to perform surveillance in order to gather data, analyze, evaluate and come out with a possible solution.

4. Epidemiology surveillance monitors and clarifies the epidemiology of health problems to allow priorities to be set and to inform primary health care policy and strategies. Surveillance provides feedback so health workers can address health problems.

5. Epidemiologic surveillance helps to assess the state of health problems. Continuous scrutiny provides reliable data that can improve health promotion programs and help policy makers and investors allocate resources effectively.

6. Continued data collection helps to monitor new diseases that threaten primary health care. Having an understanding on a pathogen helps health care professionals to understand where and how to intervene.

7. Epidemiologic surveillance helps in the evaluation of programs held in our various communities. Program evaluation helps health workers to modify the programs and make them more successful.






This author has authored 1 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: JENNIFERNANATABI

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