Process for developing and reviewing Series of National Guidelines (SoNGs)

The Communicable Diseases Network Australia (CDNA) follows a process to develop and revise national guidelines for Public Health Units to follow when managing cases of certain nationally notifiable communicable diseases.

About SoNGs

The CDNA develops protocols for Australian Public Health Units (PHUs) to use when following up cases of selected notifiable communicable diseases. We call these protocols the Series of National Guidelines (SoNGs).

SoNG format

Each SoNG should:

  • be concise
  • use Vancouver style referencing
  • follow the SoNGs template
  • have several appendices:
    • a simple, low-reading-age fact sheet (around 2 pages)
    • a PHU checklist (around 1 page)
    • an example data collection form for use by PHU staff (around 1 to 2 pages).

Contact the CDNA SoNG secretariat for the template.

Process to develop a SoNG

If CDNA members agree that a SoNG is required for a particular disease, they follow this process.

Form working group

The CDNA nominates a small working group and Chair to develop the SoNG. The working group generally includes a:

  • CDNA jurisdictional member
  • subject matter expert from within CDNA or nominated by CDNA
  • public health practitioner from a PHU
  • Chair
  • technical writer

The Chair arranges review or development of a case definition, if required.

Advise PHLN

The Chair advises the Public Health Laboratory Network (PHLN) that the working group is revising or creating a SoNG. They seek laboratory input and review of the relevant section(s) of the draft SoNG if needed.

Technical writer begins draft

Where states and territories already have public health guidelines for the disease, the working group bases the first draft on the most recently revised guidelines.

The technical writer then:

  • reviews other existing state and territory guidelines and any relevant national case definitions and identifies any discrepancies
  • liaises with the National Surveillance Committee and includes any disease surveillance objectives
  • liaises with ATAGI to include any updates on immunisation as part of a public health response.

Literature review

The technical writer reviews the following sources and identifies any discrepancies in:

  • the recent literature
  • similar guidelines produced by the USA, UK, Canada, or New Zealand
  • the current American Public Health Association’s Control of Communicable Diseases Manual.

The technical writer discusses any issues and the drafting process with the Chair. Together, they develop an initial draft of the SoNG using the SoNGs template. The technical writer ensures the SoNG is consistent with other existing guidance that relates to the public health management of the disease.

Review of first draft

The Chair convenes the working group teleconference and circulates the initial draft to the group a few days before the meeting. The technical writer incorporates any necessary feedback into the draft after this meeting. The technical writer seeks advice from individual working group members or other non-working group experts as required.

PHLN input

The technical writer seeks laboratory input and review of relevant section(s) of the draft SoNG from PHLN through a PHLN out-of-session item. The PHLN secretariat collates feedback from PHLN members and sends to the technical writer for review.

CDNA subcommittee and working group input

The technical writer sends a revised draft to the relevant CDNA subcommittee for comment and approval and incorporates any revisions.  

The technical writer than sends the draft to the working group members for final comment and incorporates any necessary feedback.

CDNA and PHLN endorsement

When the working group is happy with a final draft, the CDNA secretariat sends it to the CDNA for the Jurisdictional Executive Group (JEG) members to endorse.

At the same time, they send the draft SoNG to PHLN for review and endorsement of Section 8 – laboratory testing.

If required, the technical writer incorporates any comments from JEG, CDNA subcommittees, and PHLN into the draft and sends it back to the working group Chair.

The Chair then decides if the working group needs to reconvene to address the comments or if the SoNG should return to JEG for endorsement. This depends on the changes needed in the draft SoNG.

If case definition is not final

If the CDNA and PHLN have endorsed a SoNG but the case definition is under review, the CDNA can still send the SoNG to the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) for endorsement or noting. In this case, the SoNG includes statements:

  • that the case definition is pending and will be included once available
  • encouraging the reader to check the webpage for updates.

If AHHPC endorse or note the SoNG, we publish it with the statement about the pending case definition.

Final endorsement

The working group Chair resolves any issues with JEG endorsement.

After JEG endorsement, the Chair sends the new SoNG to AHPPC for its endorsement.

Once AHPPC has endorsed or noted the SoNG, we upload it to our website and add it to our collection of CDNA SoNGs.

After we upload the SoNG to our website, PHUs or other relevant bodies can use it for guidance.


The timeframes allocated to members to review the new or revised SoNGs are as follows.

SoNG development

Timeframe for consideration

Minor revision

2 weeks for JEG and PHLN

Major revision

6 weeks for JEG and 2 weeks for PHLN

New SoNG

6 weeks for JEG and 2 weeks for PHLN

Urgent SoNG

The Chair of the CDNA to determine

  • A major revision involves considerable changes to the SoNG that alter the guidelines substantially, such as a change in the response process for PHUs. In this case, the CDNA must review the whole document.
  • A minor revision includes small changes to the content such as adding a reference or clarifying a specific issue. Minor changes do not require extensive review of the whole document. A minor revision does not include changes to case definitions only (if it does not alter anything else in the SoNG).

Process to revise a SoNG

Once a SoNG has been endorsed for use, we monitor if it needs to be reviewed.

The CDNA work plan allows for review every 6 months, but reviews can happen earlier if there are policy changes, or if new evidence emerges.

The CDNA Chair identifies someone to review the SoNG to determine if changes are required. If they are, the CDNA forms a small group to draft a revised SoNG. The group generally follows the same process for developing a new SoNG.

The CDNA sends revised SoNGs to AHPPC for noting.

Change to case definition only

If the CDNA revises a case definition after a SoNG has been published, the SoNGs coordinator updates the SoNG with the current CDNA-approved case definition.

If the revised case definition does not affect the rest of the SoNG, the updated SoNG does not require further CDNA or AHPPC endorsement or noting before being published on our website.

Read final SoNGs

We have grouped final SoNGs into a collection.

CDNA Series of National Guidelines (SoNGs)

This collection contains all of the Communicable Diseases Network Australia (CDNA) Series of National Guidelines (SoNGs). These guidelines give nationally consistent advice and guidance to Public Health Units to help them respond to notifiable diseases using best practice.


To give feedback about a SoNG, or to get the template, please contact the SoNG secretariat.

CDNA SoNG secretariat

Contact the Communicable Diseases Network Australia (CDNA) Series of National Guidelines (SoNG) secretariat with any feedback about SoNGs. The secretariat can also provide the SoNG template.
Date last updated:

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