GAO Report States Disease Surveillance Systems in Developing Nations Need Improvement to Fight HIV/AIDS
Although surveillance systems can effectively track and help fight diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, surveillance programs in developing countries "suffer from a number of common constraints" that may hamper their effectiveness, a new report to Congress from the General Accounting Office states. The report, titled "Global Health: Challenges in Improving Infectious Disease Surveillance Systems," states that financial constraints and shortages of human resources are often detrimental to laboratories in developing nations. According to data from the World Health Organization, the staff members of more than 90% of the laboratories in developing nations are "not familiar with quality assurance principles," while more than 60% of laboratory equipment in developing nations is "outdated or not functioning." The report states that multiple surveillance systems are often "poorly coordinated and not firmly linked to response measures," and the absence of a clear response system "discourages lower level officials from investing effort in surveillance," leading to many unreported cases of disease. Although the international community has recently launched a number of initiatives aimed at fighting HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB, better surveillance systems are needed if these efforts are to succeed, the report states. The international community is working to improve both surveillance systems and laboratory operations in developing nations, the report notes, adding that the impact of these improvement efforts "remains to be demonstrated." The report concludes, "Public health experts observed that major reductions in tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and malaria cannot be achieved without substantial overall improvements in developing country health systems, including surveillance operations of these systems" ("Global Health: Challenges in Improving Infectious Disease Surveillance Systems," 8/31). The report number for the document is GAO-01-722, and the report is available online.This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.