Animal Health / Epidemiology / Surveillance

Institutional Analysis to Enhance Performance of Surveillance Systems

The 9 PENAPH partners have prepared a discussion paper on institutional approaches to surveillance systems that  has been selected for presentation at the International Conference on Animal Health Surveillance to be held in Lyon France on May 2011. The following is an introduction to the paper.

Globally, it is recognized that effective health surveillance plays a critical role that requires ongoing reinforcement in helping to assure the well-being of the earth and its living populations. . This recognition is taking place within a context of a renewed call for more effective and comprehensive integration of health efforts under headings such as ’One Health’ or ‘Ecohealth’, which assume inclusion of human, animal, and ecosystem health.

Health surveillance is a complex activity that brings together a broad range of actors and organizations whose interactions are governed by sets of formal and informal rules. Achieving effective health surveillance has been challenging within the context of conventional health science institutions. This has resulted in part from approaches in the past that have emphasized technical issues over the reality of how people are motivated to work together and share information. The current excitement about One Health approaches stems in part from the added value that integrated institutions can bring to activities such as health surveillance. However, the One Health approach also brings new challenges and transaction costs. In order to succeed in enhancing surveillance and capturing the added value of One Health approaches, it is important that these challenges, incentives and disincentives are explicitly recognized. 

The Participatory Epidemiology Network for Animal and Public Health (PENAPH) advocates for an institutional approach to capacity building that starts from an assessment of institutions and institutional objectives. In the social sciences, an “institution” is defined as a combination of actors and the mechanisms through which they interact to achieve a common purpose.  The authors wish to suggest that the inclusion of an institutional analysis framework into evaluations of surveillance systems can provide new insights into surveillance performance, optimization and sustainability. By explicitly including elements of attitudes, expectations, customary practice, and values a better understanding of why information is or is not moving can be achieved.  We believe institutional analysis is an essential tool for leaders in health surveillance institutional change. In this paper we present an example of an institutional framework for designing surveillance systems, formulating and targeting capacity building activities, and evaluating success.

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