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There are several ethical issues which must always be considered when planning any type of data collection. Data collection always costs someone something. It may cost health workers' time and energy to complete surveillance forms. It certainly costs the health coordinating organization money and time to collect, analyze, interpret, and disseminate surveillance data and results. Surveys are even more resource intensive. Data collection also costs the people in the population from which the data are collected a certain amount of time, discomfort, and potential harm.
In addition, implementing or revising programmes in response to the conclusions drawn from data collected always cost manpower, time, money, and other resources. And if the conclusions are wrong because the data were poorly collected, these resources, which could have been used otherwise, may be wasted or inefficiently employed.
Therefore, before beginning the planning process, be sure that the results of the data collection will:
- Truly be needed,
- Be disseminated widely,
- Be used to implement or revise a program, and
- Use the least intrusive and costly data collection method possible
Nonetheless, keep in mind that data collection in emergency situations is necessary to guide program decisions. Collection of data necessary for this purpose should not be delayed if the data collection poses only minimal risk to individuals or groups.