National public health surveillance in China: implications for public health in China and the United States

Biomed Environ Sci. 1997 Mar;10(1):1-13.


Study objective: Throughout the world, political developments have brought new demands to communities to prevent and intervene in the incidence of infectious and noninfectious conditions. Historically, these developments have required new and more effective public health surveillance activities. This report describes public health surveillance practice in the People's Republic of China, making comparisons with selected aspects of surveillance in the United States with respect to collection, analysis, dissemination, and use of data.

Main results: In both the People's Republic of China and the United States, political change has affected health, and multiple surveillance system are used in public health practice. Surveillance of acute infectious diseases based on the reporting of legally notifiable diseases and the use of vital records for surveillance have the longest established history in both countries. In both countries, data from the surveillance systems have been used to affect public health policy.

Conclusions: In comparing surveillance practices in these countries, we find similarities in conditions reported and in the dissemination of the data. At the same time, legal, social, cultural, and economic differences between the nations have affected the practice of surveillance in analysis and evaluation. We make explicit recommendations for improvement and evaluation of systems in both countries, including sentinel surveillance system and data quality measures in China and computer networking and data analysis in the United States.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. / history
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. / standards
  • China
  • History, 20th Century
  • Information Systems
  • Population Surveillance* / methods
  • Public Health / trends
  • United States