Global Health:

Framework for Infectious Disease Surveillance

NSIAD-00-205R: Published: Jul 20, 2000. Publicly Released: Jul 24, 2000.

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Benjamin F. Nelson
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Office of Public Affairs
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO examined the global infectious disease surveillance framework, (with particular emphasis on its operations in developing countries), focusing on: (1) functions involved in infectious disease surveillance and response framework.

GAO noted that: (1) primary functions in infectious disease surveillance include detecting and reporting cases of disease in target populations, analyzing and confirming this information to identify outbreaks and clarify longer-term trends, responding to outbreaks when they occur, and supporting longer-term management of disease control programs; (2) global surveillance and response efforts are carried out through a loose framework of formal, informal, and ad hoc arrangements linking numerous entities, including elements of national health care systems, as well as the media and internet discussion groups, laboratories and other institutions participating in disease- and region-specific networks, and nongovernmental organizations; (3) national public health authorities bear basic responsibility for surveillance functions; (4) on the global level, the World Health Organization, an agency for the United Nations, plays a central role; (5) the organization works to strengthen national and international surveillance capacity and coordinates international efforts to monitor disease trends and detect and respond to outbreaks; (6) the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Defense make significant contributions to these global efforts--for example, through assisting in outbreak response; (7) foreign assistance agencies, including the multilateral development banks, such as the World Bank, and the Agency for International Development, as well as private foundations, are important sources of support for strengthening surveillance capacity around the world; and (8) this support is generally provided within programs aimed at other objectives, such as control of specific diseases.

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