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What is Surveillance?

Public health surveillance is the ongoing systematic collection, analysis, and interpretation of health data for purposes of improving health and safety. Key to public health surveillance is the dissemination and use of data to improve health. Occupational health surveillance can be viewed as the tracking of occupational injuries, illnesses, hazards, and exposures. Occupational surveillance data are used to guide efforts to improve worker safety and health, and to monitor trends and progress over time.

Pie Chart of Surveillance Data

Surveillance includes both population- or group-based activities and individual-based activities. The latter are often referred to as worker screening and monitoring functions, and are undertaken for the detection of early disease in individuals followed by intervention steps to prevent further exacerbation.

Surveillance at NIOSH

Tracking occupational injuries, illnesses, hazards and exposures has been an integral part of NIOSH since its creation by the Occupational Safety and Health Act in 1970. NIOSH complements important statistical or surveillance activities carried out by other Federal agencies (including the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Mine Safety and Health Administration, and the National Center for Health Statistics), state governments, and private sector groups such as employers.

What Does NIOSH Do?

  • Analyzes and interprets existing data
  • Undertakes data collection efforts to fill gaps in surveillance data
  • Provides support to state agencies to conduct occupational surveillance and associated prevention efforts
  • Funds and conducts research on surveillance methods
  • Works with Federal, State, and private sector partners to improve occupational health surveillance

The NIOSH Program Portfolio-Surveillance webpage describes surveillance activities NIOSH-wide. The NIOSH Surveillance Program involves both intramural and extramural activities. Several NIOSH Divisions and Laboratories include units focused on surveillance:

NIOSH Surveillance Program

NIOSH Division Analyzes and collects data on:
The Surveillance Branch in the Division of Respiratory Disease Studies (DRDS) Occupational respiratory disease surveillance
Surveillance and Field Investigations Branch in the Division of Safety Research (DSR) Occupational injuries, such as injuries treated in hospital emergency departments (Work-RISQS), and field-based investigations of selected types of injury fatalities, such as FACE
Division of Surveillance, Hazard Evaluations, and Field Studies (DSHEFS) Non-respiratory diseases and illnesses, such as dermatitis, lead and pesticide poisoning, and cancer
Pittsburgh and Spokane Research Laboratories Mining Statistics
Alaska Regional Office Commercial Aviation in Alaska
Commercial Fishing Safety

Additionally, NIOSH works with other CDC groups to better incorporate collection of occupational information into CDC’s other public health surveillance activities.

Extramural activities include support for surveillance activities including research and public health practice. One of the NIOSH National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) categories is Surveillance Research Methods. NIOSH has funded numerous grants for research to improve surveillance methodology, including methods related to case identification, data collection, analysis and dissemination.

NIOSH supports a number of surveillance efforts involving public health practice by state health departments and other agencies with responsibility for occupational safety and health.

Surveillance Outputs

Contact Us:
  • Page last reviewed: January 9, 2014
  • Page last updated: January 9, 2014 The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
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