American Samoa: Strengthening Data Collection To Improve Health Outcomes
Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), or chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes, are a major public health concern in American Samoa. Current data about how NCDs affect American Samoans are needed so that effective steps can be taken to improve residents’ health. Yet, chronic disease surveillance data for this US territory’s adult population had not been updated since 2004. The American Samoa Department of Health used a significant portion of its Preventive Health and Health Services (PHHS) Block Grant funds to develop a chronic disease Monitoring and Surveillance Plan. The funding also supported a collaboration between government and community partners—the Non-Communicable Disease Coalition—to put a Strategic Action Plan in place for using the data and helping islanders live healthier lives.
In 2015, the Coalition completed the Monitoring and Surveillance Plan, one goal of which was to implement and maintain a systematic process that provides reliable health data. One of the strategic objectives is to strengthen public health surveillance systems for NCDs. The current surveillance system that provides information about NCD risk factors for American Samoa’s adults is the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. The Coalition’s plan identifies which tools should be used to monitor risk factor trends among children, youth, and adults and names the agency responsible for data collection. The Monitoring and Surveillance Plan also identifies and measures NCD trends over time to ensure the timely collection of data to use in guiding policy development and evaluating Strategic Action Plan’s success. The Coalition also recommended conducting surveys every five years to collect health information about adults.
Epidemiologists from CDC and the Pacific Islands Health Officers’ Association are helping American Samoa with its efforts to strengthen public health surveillance systems. Areas being monitored include chronic disease risk factors in adults, mortality data, and clinical services. The Monitoring and Surveillance Plan recommends that annual reports be prepared and distributed to assist decision makers with policy development. With guidance from these epidemiologists, the health department produced a report highlighting NCD status in American Samoa.
By building on efforts to improve NCD monitoring and enact a Strategic Action Plan, American Samoa is strengthening its ability to collect essential data needed to improve its residents’ health.
Story year: 2015