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Public Health Surveillance

Effective public health practice relies on current, relevant information on which to base actions. The information base that serves this core function is called public health surveillance—it is often called information for action. This entry describes the development of public health surveillance as well as information about some surveillance systems themselves.


Although the use of information in health decision making can be found as early as Hippocrates, the modern origins of public health surveillance are usually dated to the late 18th century by which time there were organized health authorities and an accepted classification system of diseases. William Farr's analysis of death certificates in England and Wales in the mid-19th century is recognized as one of the first functional surveillance systems. In the United States, as ...

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