Mortality data come from death certificates and is often the only source of health related data in small geographical areas. Similarly, other vital statistics reports provide valuable information such as birth certificates, discharge reports, billing records and examiner reports.
Morbidity data further includes notifiable disease and laboratory reports, outpatient health data, injury surveillance, environmental surveys, and sentinel surveillance data as well. Special disease registries also form a part of this. The data sources are likely to be faulty to some extent by missing out on some data.
However, if the surveillance procedure is maintained continuously the data will show the trend of diseases, whether it is increasing or decreasing or if anything new is coming up. This provides a timely warning system for controlling disease or event outbreaks.
Such data also help in planning new control measures, upgrading or modifying existing ones while providing a clear idea about the health status across various groups and geographical regions. This further helps in preventing avoidable death and morbidity.
The passive system comprises of collecting retrospective data regarding notifiable diseases from clinicians and caregivers to local health department. This data is further forwarded to higher level offices and finally to national or international level like the WHO (world health organization).
In the active system, the caregiver starts collecting information about a specific event or disease from clinicians, agencies with the aim of deciphering the magnitude of the problem. The sentinel system is different in that it tracks trends in commonly occurring diseases.
Here data is collected from a group of health care providers or agencies and is employed to monitor trends in events or usual diseases. The special system may be a combination of active, passive and sentinel systems. The data collected here is real time or near real time. It is often used to track illness syndromes with an eye for any potential bio-terrorism activities.
Analytical assessment skills make the nurses to be able to define problem areas and ascertain a possible cause. They should be able to understand relevant data, point out the risks and aid in analyzing the collected data. The nurses should have good communication skill as evidenced by oral and written reports.
They should be able to gather important, relevant data from others, such as clinicians and agencies so as to prepare accurate statistical, demographic and scientific data and make them available to other healthcare workers and the community at large.
They should have good connections across the community and be able to collaborate with partners. Public health surveillance nurses should have knowledge about basic health sciences like realizing personal and organizational responsibilities while collecting and analyzing associated important data.
The nurses should be amply trained to develop leadership qualities, which would help in promoting the organization and team. Such efforts are imperative in developing, sustaining and further monitoring the surveillance system.