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Steps in carrying out surveillance

(go to Outline)

But surveillance involves carrying out many integrated steps by many people:


Someone has to record the data. This is usually health care providers who provide clinical care, such as doctors, nurses, clinical officers, etc. They complete a form recording various bits of information about patients seen in their practice.

Data accumulation

Someone has to be responsible for collecting the data from all the reporters and putting it all together. This is often someone in the Ministry of Health, the local health authorities, or the organization coordinating surveillance.

Data analysis

Someone has to look at the data to calculate rates of disease, changes in disease rates, etc. This is often an epidemiologist with specific data analysis and computer skills.

Judgment and action

Someone has to decide, based on the results of analysis, what needs to be done. This is often the public health authorities at the local, provincial, or national level. In emergencies, it is often a joint opinion of local and national health authorities, the organization coordinating health, and all the organizations providing health services.

If any of these steps break down or is unavailable, you will not have usable information with which to take the appropriate (and sometimes necessary) public health action.

So when do we do surveillance?

  • When you need continuous data to make immediate clinical and public health decisions


  • The basic infrastructure and people are available to gather, transmit, and analyze the data


  • You are ready and have the resources to take action based on the data