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About Infectious Disease Surveillance and Response (IDSR)

Infectious Disease Surveillance (IDS) involves systematic collection, compilation, analysis, and interpretation of data and the dissemination of the resulting information to the individuals who can effectively respond to contain the spread of disease.

Recognition of the need for effective infectious disease surveillance and response (IDSR) systems is growing worldwide in response to increased risk of infectious disease associated with population mobility, globalization, emerging diseases, and the resurgence of diseases such as tuberculosis. A well-functioning system is essential to informing public health action to prevent and control these diseases.

IDSR efforts therefore constitute a substantial new component of PHRplus work. The project is helping countries improve the availability and use of this type of health information. PHRplus and a variety of partners are providing technical assistance in a number of countries to strengthen IDSR systems. The project also is contributing to global knowledge about strengthening behavioral and organizational aspects of IDSR, without which even the best-designed technical system will not succeed.

Current Issues with Surveillance and Response Systems

Sound surveillance standards have been designed and tested in various public health settings. Well-established and highly sophisticated surveillance systems exist in developed countries, and in many developing countries effective vertical disease surveillance systems are in place, demonstrating the potential for effective IDS systems worldwide. Yet experience shows that despite the availability of these systems and standards, IDSR activities and functions are not coordinated or integrated in many countries. In many cases, there are parallel surveillance systems, data quality is poor (unrepresentative, incomplete, and untimely), and little analysis occurs at local levels. Public health workers frequently do not have the information they need to respond appropriately and therefore must make ill-informed decisions regarding intervention.

PHRplus Approach to Strengthening Infectious Disease Surveillance (IDS)

PHRplus’ approach is based on the belief that good technical design, training, and establishment of international standards are critical but not sufficient to assure a successful and well-functioning IDSR system.


PHRplus Approach Principles

  • Building appreciation and demand for information for public health action
  • Assuring that the IDS gathers key information needs at local level
  • Creating systems and incentives to facilitate and reinforce evidenced-based public health decisions

PHRplus’ work therefore focuses on the development of a strong foundation for the collection, analysis, and use of public health information at the local and national levels as well as addressing behavioral and organizational constraints to effective IDSR. In addition, PHRplus works to foster a culture of information to increase the value placed on information by stakeholders. Establishment of this culture brings forth a demand for IDS data collected by the system and an understanding of how to use the information gleaned from the data. Furthermore, PHRplus places paramount emphasis on stakeholder participation by teaming with local and national level working groups, involving users and potential users in the design process, and investigating and addressing key enablers and barriers to system functioning.

Current IDS Activities

PHRplus global leadership activities strive to advance the field of IDS particularly with respect to behavioral and organizational issues. In addition, PHRplus will be supporting IDS strengthening activities at the country level in seven countries.

IDSR Global Leadership Activities

The focus of PHRplus efforts is to develop an appreciation for information-based public health action. PHRplus helps local level health staff collect and use IDS information to make and implement decisions about public health actions in situations of both disease outbreak or routine surveillance. The project’s skills in stakeholder participation, financing, incentives, health worker motivation, decentralization, and autonomy complement those of many partner organizations, among them the World Health Organization and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that are currently working to strengthen IDSR.

Global leadership activities include:

  • Contributing to measuring success of IDSR programs by working with partners to develop effective monitoring and evaluation activities.
  • Developing flexible tools and approaches for considering and assessing behavioral and systems factors that impede the functioning of IDS systems.
  • Contributing to the evidence base about what works and does not work to strengthen IDS functioning, through documentation of PHRplus country level work in reports and case studies, and through operations research about tested interventions that address individual and organizational behaviors contributing to an effective surveillance system.

Country level activities:

PHRplus is currently providing technical assistance to strengthening IDS in Cambodia, Georgia, Ghana, Tanzania, and the WHO/Euro supported European Infectious Disease Information System (EIDIS) project countries of Moldova, Belarus, and Ukraine. Please click on links to learn about more about these programs.


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