A literature search on best practice in public health surveillance systems was undertaken in February 2010 using a variety of database search tools including PubMed which includes Medline citations (National Library of Medicine/National Institute of Health), ScienceDirect, Scopus, Google and Google Scholar. Grey literature was sought from general web-based browsing of key healthcare and policy organisations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organisation (WHO). The search was targeted at identifying articles published within the last 10-15 years.

The search began with the specific search terms of ‘public health surveillance’ and ‘best practice’ and ‘trachoma’ in all search fields. Only one article was returned. The search was then expanded to ‘public health surveillance’ and ‘best practice’ only. This returned 146 articles. A scan of these revealed that none were in relation to the ‘how to’ of best practice in public health surveillance. Articles were in relation to public health activities for specific diseases, such as cancer and HIV; or the use of specific approaches to surveillance such as population surveys, or use of secondary data sources such as emergency department and hospital morbidity data.

Another search was then conducted around public health surveillance activities and small populations. This search returned too many articles to be reviewed (close to 2,000), and therefore the search was narrowed further with the term ‘trachoma’. No articles were returned. The terms ‘public health surveillance’ and ‘trachoma’ alone returned 45 articles, which were reviewed, but were mainly reporting of results of various studies relating to trachoma rather than a description of the surveillance activities or comparisons or evaluations of different types of approaches.

Searches continued using ‘public health surveillance’ as the base term, and employing other combinations such as ‘small populations’ and ‘school-based screening activities’. Other terms for small populations were also substituted, such as ‘vulnerable populations’, ‘remote populations’, and ‘Indigenous populations’. Abstracts of articles that looked relevant were reviewed and some articles were retrieved for detailed review. Overall, from the search we can conclude that there is very little literature published on best practice public health surveillance, and none specifically in relation to trachoma.top of page