Introduction: Solid and sensitive infectious disease surveillance systems need to be developed and implemented to prevent and control epidemics. Although statutory national infectious disease surveillance systems have been developed in many countries, some challenges remain, such as their limited timeliness, representativeness, and sensitivity, as well as the fact that they cannot capture all local outbreaks that occur in small communities. To overcome these limitations, local community-based infectious disease surveillance systems that meet local needs and can operate with constrained resources need to be developed, especially in remote and rural low-resource areas. This study aimed to develop, implement, and evaluate a voluntary and unique local community-based ophthalmology sentinel surveillance system in Isa city (OSSS-Isa), a remote rural area in Japan.
Methods: For the development of OSSS-Isa, one hospital in Isa city assumed a leading role and developed a network with all medical institutions%uF0BE20 hospitals and clinics in the local community, including 2 ophthalmology clinics as sentinel reporting sites. Surveillance was conducted on a weekly basis from Monday to Sunday. The collection, aggregation, and reporting of the surveillance data were implemented promptly on the same day, Mondays, using a paper-based form and fax. For the evaluation of OSSS-Isa, the study followed the updated guidelines for evaluating public health surveillance systems proposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to select the evaluation criteria and develop a questionnaire. The questionnaires were then distributed to 20 hospitals and clinics, with the responses evaluated on a five-point Likert scale.
Results: For the implementation of OSSS-Isa, the system issued alerts twice to the networked hospitals and clinics when signs of an increase in the prevalence of a target infectious eye disease appeared in Isa city. After the alerts, the number of cases decreased in the community. Regarding the evaluation survey, physicians from 18 hospitals and clinics responded to the questionnaire (response rate 90%). In contrast to Flexibility, more than 75% of the respondents gave high ratings to Simplicity, Data Quality, Acceptability, Timeliness, and Stability in evaluating OSSS-Isa, with the mean score for these evaluation criteria higher than 3.67.
Conclusions: The present results indicate that OSSS-Isa has high Simplicity, Data Quality, Acceptability, Timeliness, and Stability, which is highly embedded with the local health-care providers in Isa city. OSSS-Isa contributed to the early and accurate detection of signs of infectious eye disease outbreaks emerging in a small remote rural local community. The success factors seem to include its simple well-designed implementation methods, good external factors, and active human factors suited to the characteristics of the small remote rural community. The OSSS-Isa initiative appears to be a meaningful practical example of successful health advocacy by health-care providers by developing a system at the local social level while going beyond the boundaries of routine medical practice. If voluntary small-scale surveillance systems can complement statutory large-scale ones and work together locally, nationally, and internationally, it might be possible to detect small, unusual happenings that occur in the community, such as emerging infectious diseases, and thereby help avert global outbreaks.