This chapter summarizes key historical events and figures in the path to modern day public health surveillance in the United States and beyond. It outlines the concept and definition of surveillance and describes its importance as the foundation of public health practice. It enumerates the purposes and uses of surveillance data, which are elaborated upon in subsequent chapters. The chapter closes with a summary of the current issues in public health surveillance, including advances in information technology, analytic methods for surveillance data, the growth in possibilities for data dissemination, the application of methods to a variety of health outcomes, and increased demands on the information produced from surveillance systems.
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