Ethics of public health surveillance: new guidelines


Amy L Fairchild, Ali Akbar Haghdoost, Ronald Bayer, Michael J Selgelid, Angus Dawson, Abha Saxena. Andreas Reish

Lancet Public Health 2017 2(8):e348-e349. DOI: 10.1016/S2468-2667(17)30136-6

On June 23, 2017, WHO issued the first international ethics guidelines on public health surveillance, helping to fill a key gap in knowledge regarding this important practice.

Surveillance constitutes the foundation of outbreak and epidemic responses, but it is important not only for infectious disease but also for understanding the global challenge of non-communicable diseases. Surveillance can help to create accountable institutions by providing information about health and its determinants and an evidentiary basis for establishing and evaluating public health policy. Surveillance will be central to the success of the Sustainable Development Goals proposed by the UN. When the results of surveillance are shared with populations and policymakers in a timely and appropriate manner, they can serve as a tool for advocacy. Perhaps most crucially, surveillance contributes to reducing inequities; the needs of populations in which suffering occurs, particularly when this suffering is unfair, unjust, and preventable, cannot be addressed if these populations are not first made visible.

Related Cross-cutting Themes

  • Ethics