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CDC updates evaluation guidelines for disease and injury tracking systems

Last updated March 15, 2020

Approved by: Lester Fahrner, MD

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced today the release of an updated version of the much-requested Guidelines for Evaluating Public Health Surveillance Systems, which was originally published in 1988. Since that time, rapid change in the information technology realm, with its considerable influence on public health practice, has necessitated an update to these guidelines.


CDC updates evaluation guidelines for disease and injury tracking systems

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced today the release of an updated version of the much-requested Guidelines for Evaluating Public Health Surveillance Systems, which was originally published in 1988. Since that time, rapid change in the information technology realm, with its considerable influence on public health practice, has necessitated an update to these guidelines.

"Good disease tracking by public health agencies helps protect people against health challenges such as outbreaks of infectious diseases like West Nile virus and tobacco use. Effective data collection and analysis is key to disease monitoring. These guidelines provide a framework for evaluating these systems in order to ensure useful and reliable data to direct public health action," said Dr. Jeffrey P. Koplan, CDC Director.

Dr. Stephen B. Thacker, CDC's chief epidemiologist, commented on the importance of public health tracking systems by stating, "Without functional systems to track disease and injury, our nation, as a whole, is less prepared to prevent or respond to epidemics and to monitor other important health trends. We urge states to use the guidelines to evaluate their systems."

An example of the application of the guidelines can be seen in a 1996 evaluation conducted by the Colorado Department of Health and CDC of that state's tracking system reporting hospitalized spinal cord injury cases. This evaluation yielded a model that utilizes multiple sources of data to improve the timeliness and accuracy of case identification. The model is important in making certain that all cases are identified and that the number of false-positive cases, and the resources used to track them, is kept at a minimum. With timely and accurate identification of cases, public health practitioners are better able to shape prevention strategies and target interventions in an efficient manner.

The updated guidelines describe various tasks involved in evaluating a public health tracking system and provide relevant standards to assess the quality of the evaluation activities. This information is valuable to a wide audience, including: public health practitioners; health-care providers; data providers and users; professional, private and non-profit organizations; and government officials at the local, state and federal levels.

For a copy of the updated Guidelines for Evaluating Public Health Surveillance Systems, please visit our website at http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr//mmwr_rr.html.

CDC protects people's health and safety by preventing and controlling diseases and injuries; enhances health decisions by providing credible information on critical health issues; and promotes healthy living through strong partnerships with local, national and international organizations.

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Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: March 15, 2020
Last updated: March 15, 2020