The importance of animal health surveillance

June 9, 2023

Janeth George from SACIDS Foundation for One Health and College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, details what we need to know about enhancing the effectiveness of animal health surveillance in Africa through a systems-based integrative research approach

The importance of animal health surveillance cannot be understated. Firstly, it safeguards the health and welfare of animals. It also safeguards the safety of food to consumers of fresh or processed food of animal origin. It ensures quality assurance for trade in animals and animal products. And it safeguards human health. Animal health surveillance is part of the wider objective of One Health1 surveillance. However, it is an ever-evolving activity that needs to be backed up with scientific evidence. With increased cross-species transmission and disease impact, systems can no longer operate in isolation. Furthermore, surveillance data is the brainpower of any efficient health system. With surveillance data, we can estimate the magnitude of the problem and determine the distribution of the disease. It also helps to trace the history of the disease and monitor any changes in the pattern. Through surveillance, we can stimulate research, evaluate the control intervention and most of all, inform policy decisions.

Why integrative approaches in animal health surveillance? Experience from the research study in Tanzania

Several evaluations conducted between 2008 and 2017 on the animal health surveillance systems in Tanzania indicated the limited capacity of the national animal health surveillance system to detect and respond to disease outbreaks. The recommendations based on the evaluations were made, but there was little progress on the uptake and implementation. The persisting challenges indicate the complex interrelationships between the performance of the surveillance system and its processes, political and institutional frameworks at all levels. That triggered my curiosity to understand why there were few improvements in Tanzania’s animal health surveillance system, and what could be done to improve the situation sustainably. Therefore, the study was conducted to develop integrative solutions for improving the animal health system in Tanzania using a systems approach. The study involved a systematic review, an extensive field investigation, and systems integration. Data were collected using various techniques, including systematic review, questionnaire administration, key informant interviews, non-participant observation and stakeholders’ workshops.

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