Combining different surveillance systems to assess the health problems in a community
Khalid Al Aboud ,Zaher Al Asmary, Waleed Jameel, Hamdan Al Osaimy , Yasser Al Zahrani, Awatef Al Sobiani, Samiah Abdul Salam.
Public Health Department, King Faisal Hospital;Makah, Saudi Arabia.
Address for correspondence
Dr. Khalid Al Aboud, MD,
P.O Box 5440
It is of paramount for any health administration to know the prevailing health problems in their communities in order to set forth health strategies to compact those problems.
There are different surveillance systems used to know the common health problems in developing countries. The old traditional methods were utilizing hospital registries and notification systems but both methods have major disadvantages and limitations.Not all the hospital are keeping good registries and if available might not be studied well.Notification system done by health authorities are limited to most serious communicable illnesses and the list of the diseases under epidemiological surveillance in many countries are limited and not conclusive.Similarly there are limitations to other methods of surveillance. Laboratory based surveillance for example, is not applicable to all disorders as some diseases are diagnosed only clinically . Field surveys need man power and cannot assess the health in large areas.
Installing an electronic patient health records in the hospitals might be a magic solution to know what is going on in the community. These electronic health records programs utilized ICD coding and there is an ICD number for each disease .By inserting a given ICD number you can retrieve the entire patients list registered under this code.
A surveillance system based on queries submitted to certain web sites have been also utilized in developed countries. Google search query data have previously been shown to correlate with epidemiological data for communicable diseases, for example listeriosis, salmonella, West Nile virsu, MRSA and Influenza
As the technology is not available to developing countries due to the cost, the application of above strategies in developing countries is not realistic. Over-the-Counter (OTC) sales figures are a promising way to have an idea of health problems in the communities. This technique proved to be an effective early warning system for winter bed crises. Nevertheless, this method is not easy as one can imagine. Regulations have to be set, so that health authorities can obtain complete sales figures in a given area. Health care planners in the developing countries have to utilize and combine different epidemiological surveillance systems to have a better assessment of health in their communities.