This project examined strategies for interagency coordination in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Ireland. The project's primary goal was to produce promising practices that will help law enforcement and public health agencies improve interagency coordination related to terrorist threats, as well as other public health emergencies. The study's goals were to (1) assess the potential for coordinating responses via the use of public health and law enforcement surveillance systems, including the potential for integration across systems, (2) identify and assess barriers to interagency coordination, and (3) identify and assess promising practices for interagency coordination, including the applicability of existing strategies and mechanisms to the United States coordination problem.
The research design and methods used for this study were tailored to the specific needs of the research questions and the type of information being collected. The main purpose of this study was to identify promising practices used in other countries to solve the coordination problem and then recommend a set of preferred practices for use in the United States. To achieve this goal, it was necessary to first demonstrate that the coordination problem, as theoretically defined in the social choice literature, existed in the United States and other countries. Second, successes and failures in resolving the coordination problem in each of the four countries were examined. Finally, the experiences from the four countries to identify promising practices for solving the coordination problem were used. International considerations, sensitive research topics, and national security concerns added to the complexity of this research. As a result, the design employed was exploratory and not definitive.
The SSI, was designed as a critical case to evaluate the level of coordination in a narrowly defined and fairly well-established area of a routine procedure used by both public health and law enforcement. This design was based on the assumption that interagency coordination would most likely be found in an area that was established for both types of agencies and that had the potential to improve our understanding of the nature of the terrorist threat and to develop response plans through a data-driven approach. For this reason, the level and type of coordination between public health and law enforcement agencies was examined on all federally funded public health and public safety surveillance systems, which served as valuable tools for planning, detecting, and responding to population-based health hazards and criminal activity. Understanding the range of surveillance systems in these two categories across the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Ireland will advance interagency coordination in the United States by demonstrating common goals and identifying resources that can be shared. In addition to addressing the coordination issue, the SSI served as a descriptive repository for coordination-related data on public health and public safety surveillance systems.
Specifically, the SSI was designed to:
- attempt to provide a comprehensive list of all publicly funded public health and public safety surveillance systems that could be applied for terrorism planning, detection, and response
- provide a set of existing surveillance systems that have relevance to stakeholders
- serve as a point of reference and information for the stakeholder interviews
Systems were identified through searches of published literature and the Internet. The published literature searches included relevant peer-reviewed articles, government reports, system documents and manuals, and other relevant documents. The Internet searches examined both government and private Web sites for surveillance information. These searches were iterative, with follow-up searches based on information gained during the initial search, such as document citations and references.
Internet searches used the Google general search engine. Initial searches used a general keyword search. This information was augmented with targeted searches of both government agency Web sites and nongovernmental sites. The government search used the full range of agencies likely to fund, develop, or use public health or public safety surveillance systems.
The project staff used published materials found during the search activities to code both basic and detailed information on each of the surveillance systems. Basic data elements were captured during the system identification stage. Project staff extracted detailed data elements during subsequent reviews of the information identified in the literature and Internet searches. The data elements were keyed into a data capture form and stored in an Access database.
Systems were identified through a search of several information sources, and data elements were extracted from Web sites, published documents and reports, and other appropriate sources. Surveillance systems were included if they were:
- operational and ongoing during the data collection period
- systematically collecting, analyzing, and interpreting public health and/or public safety-related information to plan, implement, or evaluate actions
- collecting data that could potentially be used to prepare, recognize, or respond to a terrorist incident
A total of 113 systems were identified and classified: 73 in the United States, 13 in the United Kingdom, 21 in Canada, and 6 in Ireland.
Public health and public safety surveillance systems in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Ireland.
the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's online book catalog
the United States Government Printing Office (GPO) Monthly Catalog database
the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) database
The study contains a total 131 variables. Variables included general information about public health and public safety surveillance systems, including surveillance system names, nation of origin, surveillance type, intended use or primary purpose of the system, system URLs, primary funding agency, and Cooperating Agency. Other variables included source of the surveillance data, how the data was captured and reported by the original reporting agent, the population being tracked, how widely reports are disseminated, data quality documentation, data processing procedures, start and stop dates for data collection, what statistical procedures were used to report the aggregate data, and comments on any relevant or additional information about surveillance system.