Contact allergy (CA) surveillance networks provide information to a multitude of stakeholders, which is indispensable for evidence-based decision-making in the field of prevention. Methods and results of the German surveillance system on CA are reviewed and discussed with reference to other systems. The German network structure comprises 56 departments of dermatology and includes all patients who are patch-tested for suspected CA. Data analysis considers the results of patch testing and further pertinent information for each patient. Following aspects are addressed: (i) the description of the clinical population, (ii) evaluation of patch test reactions, (iii) relationship between patch test results and population characteristics. Trend analyses on chromate (decreasing), epoxy resin (increasing) and nickel (heterogeneous) served as examples for surveillance system analyses, with the identification of sentinel events, as well as proof of success or failure of prevention. In addition, external data sources can be used such as sales data of patch test preparations to estimate frequencies of sensitization on a population level. National prescription data of drugs and statistics of labelling of preservatives on cosmetics can be included, the latter two approaches allowing for risk estimates conferred by specific allergens.