Disease Surveillance helps countries assess the health of their populations in order for them to identify what diseases are affecting their communities and the prevalence of specific diseases for elimination efforts. At The Task Force, a number of our programs work with countries to provide effective field-based tools and strategies for disease surveillance and ensuring that the country has sustainable capacity to conduct ongoing disease surveillance.
Public health programs targeting infectious diseases require sophisticated systems for monitoring changes in health status within populations. These systems include trained frontline health workers who can recognize disease outbreaks, diagnostic technologies that can identify infections, and health information systems to manage data.
As COVID-19 demonstrated, countries around the world lack robust disease surveillance systems. This can be due to insufficient resources, inadequate public health capacity, and outdated or poor health information systems. As a result, populations are at greater risk of disease outbreaks that can spread uncontrollably, leading to deadly epidemics and pandemics like Ebola and COVID-19.
With our partners, we support a range of public health activities to help countries build the public health capacity needed for strong disease surveillance.
To strengthen these systems for the next emergency, The Task Force, in collaboration with Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, and World Health Organization (WHO) – is working as the implementing partner for The Global Fund’s SONAR (Strengthening Outbreak Notification And Response) program. Through SONAR, The Task Force provides technical assistance to low- and middle- income partner countries to strengthen their efforts to establish comprehensive, coordinated surveillance systems capable of detecting emerging outbreaks, tracking the course of pathogens through the community, linking laboratory and epidemiological data from the same cases, while making the data accessible in a form readily understandable by decision makers.
Supporting Surveillance Projects
The Global Fund has tapped TFGH as its implementing partner for SONAR because of the diverse expertise from various programs at TFGH, including PIVI, CoVIP and PHII. SONAR aims to enhance early warning surveillance in low- and middle-income countries by:
- Implement early warning surveillance and epidemic intelligence systems to shorten time to detection and reporting of and response to outbreaks.
- Increase interconnectivity between laboratory and epidemiologic data systems, including health facility and community level event reporting.
- Improve accessibility and use of data for response.
TEPHINET manages projects in developing countries that help strengthen their disease surveillance in the following areas:
- Public health applied research and surveillance which includes projects like Evaluating and Enhancing Maternal and Prenatal Death Surveillance and Response,
- Strengthening field epidemiology training programs which includes projects like Developing a FETP Cancer Curriculum,
- Strengthening public health infrastructure which includes projects like Innovative and Sustainable Global Laboratory Training and Efficiency Enhancement, and
- Non-communicable disease detection, prevention, and elimination which includes projects like Advancing Birth Defects Count.
These projects help regions and countries improve their disease surveillance efforts ultimately strengthening their health system.
Surveying the “Last Mile” of Disease Elimination
In our programs to eliminate neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), we support mapping studies
using a variety of surveillance technologies to understand prevalence levels within populations. These studies help track progress in reaching elimination goals and inform programmatic decisions about when mass treatment can be stopped. We also design and test novel transmission assessment surveys that can identify lower NTD prevalence levels than can be detected with conventional methods. Looking ahead, we are working with partners to deploy integrated surveillance approaches using multiplex assays for detecting the prevalence of multiple pathogens within populations. This technology is expected to vastly improve understanding of the health profiles of communities in developing countries where NTDs are endemic.
Logging Disease Surveillance Information
Our expertise in health information systems has been critical to understanding the causes of
childhood mortality in developing countries and strengthening U.S. public health’s ability to
detect disease outbreaks. We have developed a sophisticated information system to manage
data collected about childhood deaths in seven countries in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
This system will be a vital tool for supporting surveillance of disease outbreaks that can
threaten the health and lives of children in these countries. Finally, in the United States, we are
working with the nation’s largest health systems and U.S. public health to implement a single
standard for exchanging electronic information about cases of reportable infectious diseases.
When fully implemented, this standard will help ensure public health agencies have access to
timely information about potential disease outbreaks in communities.
It was a 35-hour journey for Prof. Dr. Aamer Ikram from Islamabad,
Field Epidemiologist Brings Partners Together to Respond to a Suspected Rabies Outbreak in Northern Mozambique
On an April day in Malta, Joaquin Baruch responded to a call
Programs & Initiatives
Strengthen Countries' Capacity to Identify Infectious Diseases
Malembe Sandrine Ebama
Where We Work
To find where we work on disease surveillance training, click here.
Header photo caption: Researchers use diagnostic tools to test prevalence of onchocerciasis and lymphatic filariasis in a community in Cameroon.