Changes to Public Health Surveillance Methods Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic: Scoping Review.

Changes to Public Health Surveillance Methods Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic: Scoping Review.

Publication date: Jan 19, 2024

Public health surveillance plays a vital role in informing public health decision-making. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 caused a widespread shift in public health priorities. Global efforts focused on COVID-19 monitoring and contact tracing. Existing public health programs were interrupted due to physical distancing measures and reallocation of resources. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic intersected with advancements in technologies that have the potential to support public health surveillance efforts. This scoping review aims to explore emergent public health surveillance methods during the early COVID-19 pandemic to characterize the impact of the pandemic on surveillance methods. A scoping search was conducted in multiple databases and by scanning key government and public health organization websites from March 2020 to January 2022. Published papers and gray literature that described the application of new or revised approaches to public health surveillance were included. Papers that discussed the implications of novel public health surveillance approaches from ethical, legal, security, and equity perspectives were also included. The surveillance subject, method, location, and setting were extracted from each paper to identify trends in surveillance practices. Two public health epidemiologists were invited to provide their perspectives as peer reviewers. Of the 14,238 unique papers, a total of 241 papers describing novel surveillance methods and changes to surveillance methods are included. Eighty papers were review papers and 161 were single studies. Overall, the literature heavily featured papers detailing surveillance of COVID-19 transmission (n=187). Surveillance of other infectious diseases was also described, including other pathogens (n=12). Other public health topics included vaccines (n=9), mental health (n=11), substance use (n=4), healthy nutrition (n=1), maternal and child health (n=3), antimicrobial resistance (n=2), and misinformation (n=6). The literature was dominated by applications of digital surveillance, for example, by using big data through mobility tracking and infodemiology (n=163). Wastewater surveillance was also heavily represented (n=48). Other papers described adaptations to programs or methods that existed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic (n=9). The scoping search also found 109 papers that discuss the ethical, legal, security, and equity implications of emerging surveillance methods. The peer reviewer public health epidemiologists noted that additional changes likely exist, beyond what has been reported and available for evidence syntheses. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated advancements in surveillance and the adoption of new technologies, especially for digital and wastewater surveillance methods. Given the investments in these systems, further applications for public health surveillance are likely. The literature for surveillance methods was dominated by surveillance of infectious diseases, particularly COVID-19. A substantial amount of literature on the ethical, legal, security, and equity implications of these emerging surveillance methods also points to a need for cautious consideration of potential harm.

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Concepts Keywords
Infodemiology big data
January COVID-19
Pandemic decision making
Vaccines digital surveillance
mobility tracking
public health
public health surveillance


Type Source Name
disease MESH COVID-19 Pandemic
disease IDO contact tracing
disease VO organization
disease VO Equity
disease MESH infectious diseases
disease MESH substance use
drug DRUGBANK Methylphenidate
disease VO Canada
disease VO population
disease MESH noncommunicable diseases
disease MESH influenza
drug DRUGBANK Etoperidone
disease VO vaccination
disease VO vaccine
disease MESH emergency
disease IDO country
disease IDO quality
disease VO time
disease VO effective
disease IDO history
disease IDO intervention
pathway KEGG Coronavirus disease
disease IDO process
disease IDO production
disease MESH zoonotic infections
disease VO immunization
disease VO vaccine efficacy
disease MESH Chronic diseases
disease MESH infections
disease VO report
disease IDO blood
disease MESH sexually transmitted infection
disease MESH autism
disease IDO antibiotic resistance
disease MESH malaria
pathway KEGG Malaria
disease MESH polio
disease VO effectiveness
disease VO volume
drug DRUGBANK Coenzyme M
disease MESH Lyme disease
disease MESH cancer
drug DRUGBANK Sodium hydroxide
disease IDO algorithm
disease VO Optaflu
disease MESH enterovirus infections
disease IDO infectious disease
disease VO GatA
disease IDO pathogen surveillance
disease MESH hepatocellular carcinoma
pathway KEGG Hepatocellular carcinoma
disease MESH chronic hepatitis
disease VO protocol
disease MESH infectious skin diseases
drug DRUGBANK Ilex paraguariensis leaf
disease VO Enterovirus
disease MESH African swine fever
drug DRUGBANK Trestolone
disease MESH suicide
disease IDO symptom
disease IDO host
disease MESH Insomnia
disease MESH opioid abuse
drug DRUGBANK Ethanol
disease VO USA
drug DRUGBANK Tromethamine
disease MESH taste disorders
disease MESH death
drug DRUGBANK Guanosine
disease VO device
drug DRUGBANK Carboxyamidotriazole
disease IDO infection
drug DRUGBANK (S)-Des-Me-Ampa
drug DRUGBANK Water
disease MESH uncertainty
disease IDO infectivity
disease VO inactivation
disease VO MVA
drug DRUGBANK Medical air
drug DRUGBANK L-Valine
drug DRUGBANK Diethylstilbestrol
drug DRUGBANK Isoxaflutole
drug DRUGBANK Alpha-1-proteinase inhibitor
disease VO organ
drug DRUGBANK Serine
disease MESH Monkeypox
drug DRUGBANK Spinosad

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