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Local Surveillance Practice Evaluation in North Carolina and Value of New National Accreditation Measures

Samoff, Erika PhD, MPH; MacDonald, Pia D. M. PhD, MPH; Fangman, Mary T. BS; Waller, Anna E. ScD

Journal of Public Health Management & Practice: March/April 2013 - Volume 19 - Issue 2 - p 146–152
doi: 10.1097/PHH.0b013e318252ee21
Original Articles

Context: Delivery of essential public health services requires collection and analysis of public health surveillance data and delivery of these data to program managers, policy makers, and the community in accessible and useable formats. Much of this work is done by local health department (LHD) staff. We define local surveillance practice as comprising data collection, handling, and dissemination. Traditional surveillance evaluation does not generally assess local surveillance practice. However, new accreditation measures capture many aspects of local surveillance practice and may be useful for assessing this practice.

Objectives: To examine the collection of surveillance data in LHDs and the communication of these data to program managers and policy makers, and to describe the extent to which national accreditation measures capture local surveillance practice.

Design: Cross-sectional survey sampling comprises 18% of North Carolina LHDs based on a stratified random sample.

Setting: Local health departments (LHDs) in North Carolina.

Participants: Local health department directors and nursing directors or supervisors.

Main Outcome Measures: Local health department surveillance practices and the congruence of accreditation measures for LHDs with these practices.

Results: The majority of LHDs used a broad range of data sources and types and delivered surveillance data to government and community recipients. Accreditation measures captured key facets of local surveillance practice.

Conclusions: Surveillance and epidemiology are performed at the local level in ways that support essential public health services. Accreditation measures may be useful in evaluating local surveillance practice.

The study aimed to examine the collection of surveillance data in local health departments, the communication of these data to program managers and policy makers, and to describe the extent to which national accreditation measures capture local surveillance practice.

North Carolina Preparedness and Emergency Response Research Center, Institute for Public Health, Gillings School of Global Public Health (Drs Samoff and Waller and Ms Fangman), and Center for Public Health Preparedness, Institute for Public Health, Gillings School of Global Public Health, and Department of Epidemiology (Dr MacDonald), and Carolina Center for Health Informatics, Department of Emergency Medicine, School of Medicine (Dr Waller), University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Correspondence: Erika Samoff, PhD, MPH, 100 Market St, Southern Village, Chapel Hill, NC 27516 (erika.samoff@unc.edu).

This research was carried out by the North Carolina Preparedness and Emergency Response Research Center, which is part of the University of North Carolina Center for Public Health Preparedness at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Gillings School of Global Public Health and was supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention grant 1PO1 TP 000296. The contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Additional information can be found at http://cphp.sph.unc.edu/ncperrc/.

The authors thank North Carolina Division of Public Health and local health department staff members for their generosity with their time and thoughts. They also thank Aaron Fleischauer of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the North Carolina Division of Public Health and Mary Davis of the University of North Carolina.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

© 2013 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.