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Emerging Infectious Diseases: Consensus on Needed Laboratory Capacity Could Strengthen Surveillance

HEHS-99-26 Published: Feb 05, 1999. Publicly Released: Feb 25, 1999.
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the nation's infectious diseases surveillance network, focusing on the: (1) extent to which states conduct public health surveillance and laboratory testing of selected emerging infectious diseases; (2) problems state public health officials face in gathering and using laboratory-related data in the surveillance of emerging infectious diseases; and (3) assistance that the Department of Health and Human Services' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides to states for laboratory-related surveillance and the value of this assistance to state officials.


Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention To improve the nation's public health surveillance of infectious diseases and help insure adequate public protection, the Director, CDC, should lead an effort to help federal, state and local public health officials create consensus on the core capacities needed at each level of government. The consensus should address such matters as the number and qualifications of laboratory and epidemiologic staff, laboratory and information technology and CDC's support of the nation's infectious diseases surveillance system.
Closed – Implemented
In November 2000, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation issued the report, "Assessing Core Capacity for Infectious Diseases Surveillance." The report was an important step forward in developing an analytic framework that could be used to help create consensus on core capacities needed at each level of government for effective national surveillance. The report identified gaps in the core capacity for infectious diseases surveillance and identified investment priorities for closing these gaps. While the report identified as one of the gaps the lack of a clear set of standards that defines the critical surveillance needs and associated capacity requirements at all levels of the system, the work of producing such a set of standards remained to be done. In the context of preparing to distribute cooperative agreement awards for public health emergency preparedness and response, CDC worked with HHS to get consensus from a broad array of public health partners and organizations on critical capacities, including critical benchmarks that must be met, and enhanced capacities related to bioterrorism, other infectious disease outbreaks, and other public health threats and emergencies. Laboratory capacity is included in this effort. However, some of the capacity definition is at a fairly general level.

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Disease detection or diagnosisstate relationsHealth care personnelHealth research programsInfectious diseasesLaboratoriesMedical information systemsPublic health researchTestingViral hepatitisEmerging infectious diseases