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India upgrades disease surveillance platform

India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare last week unveiled an upgraded version of its Integrated Health Information Platform that will track more diseases and collect near real-time disease incidences across the country.

The IHIP will produce analysed reports from real-time information to track potential disease outbreaks as they happen instantaneously. These reports, which will be available on any electronic device, can be integrated with other health surveillance programmes. Additionally, the updated surveillance platform will now observe 33 diseases, up from 18 previously.

WHY IT MATTERS

The World Health Organization stressed the importance of disease surveillance as an early warning system to identify public health emergencies. As this form of surveillance monitors and understands the epidemiology of a condition, it will aid in the formation of public health policies and strategies.

IHIP’s function in looking at the earliest signs of disease spreading in small villages in India will “immensely” help in preventing any potential outbreak or epidemic, said Health and Family Welfare Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan. “Accurate, reliable and timely information is crucial for a country such as India which has a population of 1.35 billion,” he added.

Meanwhile, Dr Roderico Ofrin, WHO representative to India, said the upgraded portal will also aid in disease prioritisation.

THE LARGER TREND

Following the former Trump administration’s order to bypass the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in COVID-19 reporting, the need to automise data and minimise manual processes in pandemic surveillance was highlighted. According to CDC, the eCR – a counterpart of the IHIP in the US – integrates information from various sources and systems which enables faster disease detection; facilitates collaboration among healthcare providers and public health authorities; and reduces labour by automising data.

However, the success of such technology in public health surveillance also depends on the quality of data shared among stakeholders, Vardhan pointed out.

ON THE RECORD

“We have started a new chapter in India’s public health trajectory. India is the first country in the world to adopt such an advanced disease surveillance system,” Vardhan claimed.

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