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Dissemination and action

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There have been many, many data analyses done and reports written which gather dust on shelves in offices all over the world. Why is this? Many such analyses did not address the most pressing needs for information and were therefore not maximally useful. Some reports are written in ways that are inaccessible to the most appropriate audience. Other reports may not have been disseminated to the people who could take action. In general, the more widely disseminated the results of a data analysis are, the more likely someone will use them to take specific actions. And that, after all, is the main reason we collect, analyze, and present data.

Such reports should be freely accessible to all concerned organizations in the field as well as to others. This usually means posting the report on the internet and advertising its existence. In addition, oral presentations to concerned groups may make a more cogent case for action. They also give listeners a chance to pose questions or discuss their reservations about specific results, conclusions, or recommendations.

The final goal of all epidemiologic activities in humanitarian emergencies is to direct programming resources to the most efficient and effective programme interventions. This requires an unbroken chain from discovering a need for data through dissemination and implementation of the recommendations. Although the epidemiologist, public health worker, or survey manager do not bear all the responsibility for ensuring that appropriate steps are taken, they must do all they can to ensure that epidemiologic data are collected and analyzed correctly, presented in the most accessible fashion, and used to take specific programme actions.