Challenges of implementing the integrated disease surveillance and response strategy in Zambia: a health worker perspective
BACKGROUND: Despite advances in medical technology and public health practice at the global level over the past millennia, infectious diseases are still the leading causes of death in most resource limited countries. Stronger infectious disease surveillance and response systems in developed countries facilitated the near elimination of infectious disease related deaths in those countries. Today, low-income countries are following this path by strengthening disease surveillance and response strategies that would help reverse the trend in infectious disease associated morbidity and mortality cases. In 2000, Zambia adopted the World Health Organisation Regional Office for Africa’s (WHO-AFRO) Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response Strategy (IDSR) to monitor, prevent and control priority notifiable infectious diseases in the country. Through this strategy, activities pertaining to disease surveillance are coordinated and streamlined to take advantage of similar surveillance functions, skills, resources and targeted populations. The purpose of the study was to investigate and report on the existing challenges in the implementation of the IDSR strategy in a resource limited country from a health worker perspective.
METHODS: A qualitative study approach was used to achieve the study aim. Data was collected through key informant interviews with selected persons at the Lusaka Province Health Office (LPHO); Lusaka and Chongwe District Health Management Team Offices; and four selected health facilities in the two districts (two from each). Thematic analysis approach was used to analyse the qualitative data.
RESULTS: The major successes included operationalised response and epidemic preparedness at all levels (National to district); full-time staff and budget dedicated to disease surveillance at all levels and adoption of the 2010 World Health Organisations’ Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response Strategy technical guidelines to the Zambian context. Several challenges hampered effective implementation. These include inadequate trained human resources, poor infrastructure and coordination challenges.
CONCLUSION: The implementation of IDSR strategy in Zambia has recorded some successes. However, several gaps hinder effective implementation. It is imperative that these gaps are addressed for Zambia to have a robust surveillance system that could inform policy in a comprehensive and timely manner.
C. B. Mandyata, L. K. Olowski and W. Mutale. (2017). Challenges of implementing the integrated disease surveillance and response strategy in Zambia: a health worker perspective. BMC Public Health, 17(1), 746.