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Development of a generic approach to evaulate animal health surveillance systems in Great Britain. - SE4302

The health and welfare of farmed livestock in UK is crucial to our national economy for many reasons – it impacts food security, access to markets for trade, the sustainability of the rural economy, public health and the wider economy eg through leisure use of the countryside, as recognised in Defra’s Animal Health and Welfare Strategy. Disease outbreaks, like foot and mouth disease or bluetongue, avian influenza or VTEC on open farms achieve front page status in the press, especially if public health is also threatened. Response to these events can be costly in terms of Government resource and disruption to normal farming business.

Veterinary surveillance activities include collection, analysis, interpretation and communication of data pertinent to the health or disease status of animals. In Great Britain, a number of surveillance activities are currently ongoing to provide information to decision makers, including Defra. Some surveillance is disease specific, for example bovine tuberculosis surveillance, and some surveillance is generic, for example, investigations conducted on suspect disease outbreaks. The value of surveillance is dependent on a number of factors including the timeliness and validity of its output and the costs involved.

Our research will provide a generic approach to the evaluation of surveillance systems that will firstly, assess current surveillance approaches; secondly, enable us to predict the benefits that may be derived from new approaches and thirdly, to monitor the response of surveillance systems to these approaches once they have been implemented. The methods that we develop will also enable us to examine the relationship between different surveillance systems. The quality of surveillance activities is currently not formally and systematically assessed. We propose to develop a novel, generic and comprehensive framework that will allow the integration of performance indicators across different surveillance activities to derive a measure of surveillance quality and cost-effectiveness. To achieve this, existing approaches for the evaluation of medical surveillance and existing veterinary evaluation methods will be systematically examined. An inventory of indicators will be created that can be used to assess the performance of individual surveillance programmes when compared with their objectives. Relationships between input and output of surveillance activities as well as relationships among surveillance programmes will be described and mapped to assess the type and level of resource competition or synergies between activities. The evaluation framework will be applied to selected, current surveillance activities to assure its practicality. This will be achieved by conducting 3-5 case studies.

Our ultimate goal is to contribute to the improvement of animal health in Great Britain (GB) by enabling the improvement of surveillance. The results of this project will guide animal health policy makers on decisions regarding investments to improve and refine veterinary surveillance systems in Britain. It will facilitate optimal resource allocation between surveillance activities and assure cost-effectiveness. High-quality information on the progress of disease control programmes and on the health risks of animals will be available while making best use of scarce resources. The approach will be applicable to all surveillance programmes run by Defra, but also benefit other programmes funded by the livestock industries.
The project will involve the following work packages:

1) To review existing evaluation frameworks used in public health and related fields
2) To develop a framework for the evaluation of surveillance systems that defines criteria to assess the value of the system and identifies surveillance performance indicators
3) To describe existing surveillance systems and map the resource relationships between their different components
4) To investigate and explain sources of heterogeneity in surveillance processes across GB that may impact on the interpretation and use of surveillance data for decision-making
5) To develop specific, novel evaluation tools
6) To apply the framework from (2) in 3-5 case studies of existing surveillance activities to assess the validity and practicality of the approach
7) To make recommendations for routine evaluation of surveillance systems

Project Documents
• EVID4 - Final project report : SE4302 EVID4 FINAL...   (859k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2010

To: 2012

Cost: £518,186
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Veterinary Laboratories Agency, Royal Veterinary College
Animal Diseases              
Animal Health              
Plants and Animals              
Veterinary Surveillance