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Gaceta Sanitaria

versão impressa ISSN 0213-9111


MATEO, S. de  e  REGIDOR, E.. Public health surveillance systems: let's not ask for the impossible. Gac Sanit [online]. 2003, vol.17, n.4, pp.327-331. ISSN 0213-9111.

The publication of the Decree creating the National Epidemiological Surveillance Network, 7 years ago now, invites us to reflect on public health surveillance systems in our country and to highlight those aspects that help or obstruct these systems in meeting their basic objective of providing information that can be used to facilitate disease control.  Many of the events that have taken place in the health arena in recent years, labeled as «health crises» by the communications media, have been considered by the population as unacceptable risks that the health system should have avoided; defects in surveillance systems are one of the errors always mentioned in this respect. Some of these defects arise because of limitations of the instruments used to measure and classify health problems, but others are due to an inappropriate understanding of surveillance, which make it difficult to assess the true impact of health problems. A discussion of the two types of defects will not solve surveillance problems, but it may help many people to stop asking our surveillance systems for what they cannot offer.

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