Boston expands use of syndromic surveillance in public health

The Boston Public Health Commission is expanding the use of syndromic surveillance, a tracking system that helps local, regional and national health officials to monitor disease outbreaks, immunizations and illnesses.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, syndromic surveillance involves the use of inpatient and ambulatory clinical care electronic health record data to improve disease surveillance. The BPHC plans to use syndromic surveillance to more effectively share public health concerns in the city of Boston, New Public Health reports.

"Engaging with communities, schools, daycares, community based organizations, and churches results in a healthier community because primary communication doesn't occur in the healthcare sector, it occurs in the community," Julia Gunn, the director of the communicable disease control division at BPHC, said, according to New Public Health.

Syndromic surveillance encourages public health communication by determining affected areas, informing the public and targeting resources to affected individuals.

In November, the National Association of County & City Health Officials discussed the time it spent visiting Boston with the BPHC. Staff members at the NACCHO said the BPHC demonstrated the importance of community collaboration and the leveraging of information sources, ePublic Health Blog reports.

By using syndromic surveillance systems, public health officials can confirm disease outbreaks prior to receiving laboratory results, according to ePublic Health Blog.