Developing a Multidisciplinary Syndromic Surveillance Academic Research Program in the United Kingdom: Benefits for Public Health Surveillance


Elliot AJ, Morbey R, Edeghere O, Lake IR, Colon-Gonzalez FJ, Vivancos R, Rubin GJ, O'Brien SJ, Smith GE


Syndromic surveillance is growing in stature globally as a recognized and innovative approach to public health surveillance. Syndromic surveillance can be defined as the near–real-time collection, analysis, interpretation, and dissemination of health-related data to enable the early identification of the impact (or absence of impact) of potential health threats that may require public health action.1 Public Health England (PHE) coordinates a real-time syndromic surveillance service across England and operates national syndromic surveillance systems from 4 sources: general practitioner (family physician) in-hours consultations, general practitioner out-of-hours consultations, sentinel emergency department visits reported to PHE’s Emergency Department Syndromic Surveillance System, and calls to the National Health Service 111 nonemergency medical helpline.24 PHE’s syndromic surveillance service involves the collection, analysis, interpretation, and assessment of data on a daily basis. Data analysis uses epidemiologic methods and statistical algorithms incorporating a multilevel hierarchical mixed-effects model that compares contemporaneous data with historical data to identify excess activity.5 Data are aggregated into syndromic indicators, based on symptoms and/or clinical diagnoses of disease (eg, diarrhea, acute respiratory infection). Trends and key public health messages are published in weekly bulletins.6


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