Twenty Years of Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response in Sub-Saharan Africa: Challenges and Opportunities for Effective Management of Infectious Disease Epidemics

Mremi IR, George J, Rumisha SF, Sindato C, Mboera LEG, Kimera SI. 


Background: Public health surveillance requires valid, timely and complete health information for early detection of outbreaks. Countries in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) adopted Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response (IDSR) strategy in 1998 in response to an increased frequency of emerging and re-emerging diseases in the region. This systematic review aimed to analyse how IDSR implementation has embraced advancement in information technology, big data analytics techniques and wealth of data sources to strengthen detection and management of infectious disease epidemics in SSA.

Methods: A search for eligible articles was done through HINARI, PubMed, and advanced Google Scholar databases. The review followed Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis Protocols checklist. Using the key search descriptors, 1,809 articles were identified and screened at two stages and 45 studies met the inclusion criteria for detailed review.

Results: Of the 45 studies, 35 were country-specific, seven studies covered the region and three studies covered 3-4 countries. A total of 24 studies assessed the IDSR core functions while 42 studies assessed the support functions. Twenty-three studies addressed both the core and support functions. Most of the studies involved Tanzania (9), Ghana (6) and Uganda (5). The implementation of the IDSR strategy has shown improvements mainly in the support functions. The Health Management Information System (HMIS) has remained the main source of IDSR data. However, the HMIS system is characterised by inadequate data completeness, timeliness, quality, analysis and utilisation as well as lack of integration of data from sources other than health care facilities.

Conclusion: In most SSA, HMIS is the main source of IDSR data, characterised by incompleteness, inconsistency and inaccuracy. This data is considered to be biased and reflects only the population seeking care from healthcare facilities. Community-based event-based surveillance is weak and non-existence in the majority of the countries. Data from other systems are not effectively utilized and integrated for surveillance. It is recommended that SSA countries consider and adopt multi-sectoral, multi-disease and multi-indicator platforms that integrate the existing surveillance systems with other sources of health information to provide support to effective detection and prompt response to public health threats.


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