Disease Surveillance Networks

Pioneering networks to detect and respond to disease outbreaks


In recent decades, the global health and economic impacts of SARS, H5N1, H1N1, and Ebola have raised global awareness of pandemic threats. In many cases, the most at-risk regions lacked the capacity to effectively monitor and report the first signs of outbreaks within their nations—let alone coordinate such communications with neighboring countries.

The Rockefeller Foundation’s seminal work on these issues, beginning in 1999, found that early detection by effective disease surveillance networks that operate across national borders is key to containing these threats and preventing pandemics. Building on that experience, and based on our long history in the field of public health, we expanded our work through the launch of the Disease Surveillance Networks (DSN) Initiative in 2007. This initiative helped create disease surveillance networks in a number of regions of Asia and Africa by supporting the building of transnational detection, monitoring, and communications systems to strengthen disease prevention and mitigate the impact of disease outbreaks.

Key successes include:

  • Increased individual and institutional capacity in key regions in Asia and Africa to conduct disease surveillance and response efficiently and effectively;
  • Established bridges between disease surveillance networks and international agencies to increase the effectiveness of global response systems, including the launch of Connecting Organizations for Regional Disease Surveillance (CORDS) to share learning between regional disease surveillance networks and coordinate activities; and
  • Strengthened connections between animal health, human health, and environmental health through the “One Health” approach in recognition of the fact that the majority of emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic in nature.


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