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Keywords:

  • applied statistics;
  • public health bioterrorism surveillance;
  • multiple data streams;
  • biosurveillance

Abstract

The objective of this report is to provide a basis to inform decisions about priorities for developing statistical research initiatives in the field of public health surveillance for emerging threats. Rapid information system advances have created a vast opportunity of secondary data sources for information to enhance the situational and health status awareness of populations. While the field of medical informatics and initiatives to standardize healthcare-seeking encounter records continue accelerating, it is necessary to adapt analytic and statistical methodologies to mature in sync with sibling information science technologies. One major right-of-passage for statistical inference is to advance the optimal application of analytic methodologies for using multiple data streams in detecting and characterizing public health population events of importance. This report first describes the problem in general and the data context, then delineates more specifically the practical nature of the problem and the related issues. Approaches currently applied to data with time-series, statistical process control and traditional inference concepts are described with examples in the section on Statistics and the Role of the Analytic Surveillance Data Monitor. These are the techniques that are providing substance to surveillance professionals and enabling use of multiple data streams. The next section describes use of a more complex approach that takes temporal as well as spatial dimensions into consideration for detection and situational awareness regarding event distributions. The space–time statistic has successfully been used to detect and track public health events of interest. Important research questions which are summarized at the end of this report are described in more detail with respect to the methodological application in the respective sections. This was thought to help elucidate the research requirements as summarized later in the report. Following the description of the space–time scan statistical application; this report extends to a less traditional area of promise given what has been observed in recent application of analytic methods. Bayesian networks (BNs) represent a conceptual step with advantages of flexibility for the public health surveillance community. Progression from traditional to the more extending statistical concepts in the context of the dynamic status quo of responsibility and challenge, leads to a conclusion consisting of categorical research needs. The report is structured by design to inform judgment about how to build on practical systems to achieve better analytic outcomes for public health surveillance. There are references to research issues throughout the sections with a summarization at the end, which also includes items previously unmentioned in the report. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.