A fundamental role of public health agencies is the collection and analysis of data that facilitate the identification, control, and further prevention of the spread of infectious diseases. All states require the reporting of certain diseases to either the local or state health department. Physicians are required to report all notifiable diseases. In some states laboratories, hospitals, and others are also required to report. The method and timing of the report may range from a weekly card via mail to an immediate phone call. The data from the states are then forwarded to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There are a few disease conditions that are then reported to the World Health Organization.
State governments have realized the value of mandating the reporting of certain conditions other than infectious diseases. Incidents of gunshot wounds, child and domestic abuse, assaults, homicide, and some intentional and unintentional injuries require reporting to agencies such as the courts and child and adult protection, police, and health departments. Local agencies use this information for monitoring, investigation, and prevention. Additionally, there is sometimes a requirement to report these occurrences to those state and federal agencies that monitor the incidence and prevalence of various conditions and events, including specific conditions such as cancer and congenital defects.
Mandatory reporting at the local level of government is generally most effective when immediate response to an issue is necessary. State- and national-level reporting is important for tracking issues over time.
Benenson, A. S., ed. (1995). Control of Communicable Diseases Manual, 16th edition. Washington, DC: American Public Health Association.
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