The integrated disease surveillance and response (IDSR) strategy were adopted in Ghana over a decade ago, yet gaps still remain in it so it is the sole responsibility of we the health professionals to fill those gaps for the proper functioning of it.
A qualitative study has been conducted among 18 key informants in two district of Upper East Region. The respondents were from 9 health facilities considered representative of the health system (public, private and mission). A semi-structured questionnaire with focus on core and support functions (e.g. case detection, confirmation, reporting, analysis, investigation, response, training, supervision, and resources) of the IDSR system was administered to the respondents.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines public health surveillance as the “continuous, systematic collection, analysis, and interpretation of health-related data needed for the planning, implementation, and evaluation of public health practice. The aggregation of quality health-related data is paramount to the success of all public health initiatives. Without correct and current data, diseases are misunderstood, health programs do not accomplish their goals, and resources are incorrectly allocated. Functioning surveillance systems are necessary for the success of global health initiatives.
A health problem must be well defined before it can be solved. Surveillance systems generate data that help public health officials understand existing and emerging infectious and non-infectious diseases. Continued data collection is needed to monitor new diseases that threaten global health security (like the Ebola virus) and the changes in distribution and virulence of well-known diseases (like the influenza virus). Information collected on novel diseases include characteristics such as the type of pathogen involved, symptoms caused, the infected population and the morbidity and mortality rates. Without surveillance, public health problems, which is a waste of precious resources.
Once data generated from surveillance systems are compiled and analyzed, scientists can draw a picture of the health problem, and begin to create public interventions. Evidence-based practice in public health depends on current and correct data. The smallpox Eradication program(1966 to 1978) eradicated the smallpox virus through education and a mass of vaccination programs across the globe. A competent and intergraded surveillance system was crucial to the success of the program. As new cases were reported, ring vaccination occurred to prevent the spread of illness to non-immunized people.
Surveillance systems that generate specific data on diseases and geographic areas are imperative because they help measure the relative importance of a health event. Facts about disease distribution and determinants that come from surveillance help politicians and organizations make more informed decisions about where, when, and how to spend money and time in order to spend money and time in order to elicit the best results. Without quality public health data, interventions may be misguided and wasteful. Numbers and statistics should be the basis upon which funders and politicians make their decisions. Should more money go towards controlling a disease that kills one million people per year, or one thousand? Such questions cannot even be raised without surveillance and data collection.
Effah-Sakyi Nana Kwame
Physician Assistant Student
University of Cape Coast
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