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Public Health Surveillance

Skill targeted: Identifying Trends

Data are collected regularly to help CDC experts understand how diseases are spreading throughout the United States and around the world. In collaboration with other experts, like biostatisticians, disease detectives review this data and try to identify patterns. These patterns tell CDC experts when and where an outbreak may be happening so they can send resources to control its spread. This regular collection of data, or surveillance, can also provide insight on when and where to send resources to prevent disease from spreading in the first place.

This section focuses on basic data collection and how to categorize data by person, place, and time using a variety of graphs and figures.

Students will learn how to:

  • Describe how to collect reliable data
  • Analyze data to determine magnitude, trends, and patterns of a novel disease process or public health concern
  • Define cases, severity, and impact of a disease
  • Assess the strengths and weaknesses of various types of surveillance systems

For background information, please review CDC’s Principles of Epidemiology, 3rd Edition Lesson 3: Measures of Risk, Lesson 4: Displaying Public Health Data, and Lesson 5: Public Health Surveillance