The World Health Organization definition of public health surveillance is “the continuous, systematic collection, analysis and interpretation of health-related data needed for the planning, implementation, and evaluation of public health practice”. Our service is responsible for providing this function to our Environmental Health and Communicable Disease Control colleagues to inform public health action.
The team consists of epidemiologists as well as a data manager and data officers. Epidemiology, literally translated from Greek, means “the study of what is upon the people”. According to Porta’s “A dictionary of epidemiology” (2014), epidemiology is “the study of the occurrence and distribution of health-related events, states, and processes in specified populations, including the study of the determinants influencing such processes, and the application of this knowledge to control relevant health problems”. Field epidemiologists, also known as “disease detectives”, monitor health-related events (i.e. disease) in their area and investigate outbreaks of disease to find the source and prevent further transmission. They also analyse disease data in order to inform public health action to reduce or prevent disease.
Porta M. A dictionary of epidemiology. 6th Edition. Oxford University Press, New York, 2014
Epidemiology and surveillance aims to describe disease patterns in human populations and identify those groups of people most vulnerable to ill health. It also seeks to identify and help understand the causes of diseases (also known as aetiology) and evaluate the effectiveness of health programs and to provide reliable information to support health service decision makers in the prevention, control and treatment of disease.
- Undertake and/or advise on epidemiological functions associated with core communicable disease surveillance and outbreaks.
- Undertake and/or advise on the epidemiological investigation of communicable and non-communicable disease clusters and disease patterns as part of an Outbreak Control Team.
- Surveillance of major chronic disease and preventive health behaviours.
- Provide advice regarding epidemiological methods to inform health service planning as well as the evaluation of public health interventions.
- Analyse locally relevant data to assist engagement with advocacy to key stakeholders.
- Initiate, design, conduct and report on more complex public epidemiology including high level analysis, interpretation and reporting on health data, and survey development and design.
- Perform data quality and cleaning activities on immunisation data and collaborate with stakeholders to improve the accuracy and timeliness of immunisation data in Metro North.
- Provide immunisation data and advice to vaccine providers.