India publishes white paper on public health surveillance system

Policy think tank of the Indian government, the National Institute for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog, has published a white paper titled Vision 2035: Public Health Surveillance in India. Building upon the 2017 National Health Policy’s directions for enhanced surveillance, it notes the importance of strengthening citizen centricity in public health surveillance and services while replacing traditional surveillance systems of data entry with digital health technologies. The paper suggests the utilisation of new situation-aware real time signals from social media, mobile, and sensor networks, and citizens’ participatory surveillance systems for event based epidemic intelligence, while leveraging the existing systems and electronic health records (EHRs) for case based surveillance connected through the optimal use of unique health identifiers. 

The document identifies four building blocks to achieve this vision, which includes: (a) an interdependent federated system of governance architecture between the central government and states; (b) new data collection and sharing mechanisms for surveillance based on standardised, citizen centric EHRs with unique health ID; (c) enhanced use of new data analytics, data science, and artificial intelligence (AI); (d) advanced health informatics. To protect privacy, it envisions that surveillance will be primarily based on de-identified individual level patient information provided from healthcare facilities, laboratories, and other data sources.