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The contemporary definition of surveillance is
The ongoing systematic collection, analysis, and interpretation of health data essential to the planning, implementation and evaluation of public health practice, closely integrated with timely dissemination of these data to those who need to know. The final link the surveillance chain is the application of these data to prevention and control.1
In 2008, Professor Pless wrote an excellent criticism of modern injury surveillance in a commentary in this Journal; Surveillance alone is not the answer.2 The main point of the commentary was in his observation that,
I question whether there is any evidence that a surveillance system—even one that operates perfectly—actually contributes to prevention. …. Surveillance is sterile and pointless if it is not somehow tied to preventive interventions.
There are three ways for injury surveillance to fail the ‘Pless test’. The first way to fail is by not getting the right information into the right hands in a time and matter that allows data to be used for prevention programmes. The second way to fail is to spend ones resources looking for data, when data is not what is needed to solve the problem. Not recognising this distinction in circumstances where the second case holds true, can create accelerated efforts to collect “more and better” data in …
Competing interests None declared.
Disclaimer The findings and conclusions in this manuscript are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.