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Public health surveillance is the ongoing, systematic collection, analysis, interpretation, and dissemination of health data to help guide public health

decision making and action. Surveillance is equivalent to monitoring the pulse of the community. The purpose of public health surveillance, which is sometimes called “information for action,” is to portray the ongoing patterns of disease occurrence and disease potential so that investigation, control, and prevention measures can be applied efficiently and effectively. This is accomplished through the systematic collection and evaluation of morbidity and mortality reports and other relevant health information, and the dissemination of these data and their interpretation to those involved in disease control and public health decision-making.

Morbidity and mortality reports are common sources of surveillance data for local and state health departments. These reports generally are submitted by healthcare providers, infection control practitioners, or laboratories that are required to notify the health department of any patient with a reportable disease such as

pertussis, meningococcal meningitis, or AIDS. Other sources of health-related data that are used for surveillance include reports from investigations of individual cases and disease clusters, public health program data such as immunization coverage in a community, disease registries, and health surveys.