Monday, May 19, 2008

A really important approach for disease surveillance

Over the past few years, FAO, ILRI and a few others have been applying participatory techniques to disease surveillance (in animal health) and I think it's one of the most important breakthroughs in how we'll learn to cope with emerging infectious diseases and zoonosis.

This summary from the Communication Intiative:

"As described in the article, participatory epidemiologists rely on local knowledge to gather data on how a disease is spreading and is kept in circulation, and which diseases have the most impact on livelihoods, from the perspectives of those affected. It is called a 'customer-oriented' approach to disease control and surveillance....

An example is avian influenza reporting in Indonesia, where participatory epidemiologists, as stated here, "highlighted the true extent of bird flu.... When the programme was initiated, the extent of bird flu infection was not known. However, participatory epidemiologists found that bird flu was circulating unimpeded in backyard poultry, and within the first 12 months of operation, 800 disease events were detected..."According to the authors, "traditionally, there is little collaboration or sharing of information between the veterinary and public health sectors." The authors argue the need for veterinary and public health to work together more closely and to apply participatory approaches. They make the following recommendations:
  • Expand the field of participatory public health through active research to identify public health surveillance and response gaps that can be filled using participatory methods.
  • Provide advocacy for policies that recognise veterinary services as integral to public health.
  • Devise innovative ways to integrate participatory disease surveillance workers and participatory public health practitioners in the field; and
  • Create effective models for integrating public health and veterinary surveillance, including the development of unified ‘public health’ databases.

One step forward has been the establishment of the Participatory Epidemiology Network for Animal and Public Health. Its purpose is to advance the science of participatory epidemiology through targeted research, capacity building, policy enhancement and practitioner education. The network is coordinated by ILRI and includes FAO, OIE, AU-IBAR, and non-governmental organisations experienced in participatory epidemiology methods."

For the full paper, go here:

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