Animal associations

The importance of animal health surveillance

© Ivan Mikhaylov

Janeth George from the SACIDS One Health Foundation and the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, details what we need to know about improving the effectiveness of animal health surveillance in Africa through a research approach systems-based integrative

The importance of animal health surveillance cannot be underestimated. First, it protects animal health and welfare. It also guarantees food safety for consumers of fresh or processed foods of animal origin. It provides quality assurance for the trade in animals and animal products. And it protects human health. Animal health surveillance is part of the larger goal of One Health1 surveillance. However, this is an ever-evolving activity that needs to be backed up by scientific evidence. With increasing interspecies transmission and disease impact, systems can no longer operate in isolation. Moreover, surveillance data is the raw material of any effective health system. Using surveillance data, we can estimate the magnitude of the problem and determine the distribution of the disease. It also helps in tracing the history of the disease and monitoring any changes in the pattern. Through surveillance, we can stimulate research, evaluate control intervention and most importantly, inform policy decisions.

Why integrative approaches in animal health surveillance? Tanzania Research Study Experience

Several assessments conducted between 2008 and 2017 on animal health surveillance systems in Tanzania indicated the limited capacity of the national animal health surveillance system to detect and respond to outbreaks. Recommendations based on the assessments have been made, but there has been little progress in adoption and implementation. Persistent challenges point to the complex interrelationships between the performance of the surveillance system and its processes, policy and institutional frameworks at all levels. This sparked my curiosity to understand why there was little improvement in Tanzania’s animal health surveillance system, and what could be done to improve the situation in a sustainable way. Therefore, the study was conducted to develop integrative solutions to improve the animal health system in Tanzania using a systems approach. The study involved a systematic review, an extensive field survey and systems integration. Data was collected using a variety of techniques, including systematic review, administration of questionnaires, key informant interviews, non-participant observation, and stakeholder workshops.

animal health surveillance
Figure 1: Animal health surveillance system as a complex adaptive system.

Application of integrative approaches in animal health surveillance

Systems mapping

This study conceptualized animal health surveillance as a complex adaptive system that operates on open system principles (Figure 1). The system comprises a set of interdependent agents (inputs, enablers and results) that interact with each other and with the environment in which the system operates (political will, legal framework and international guidelines). Agents are also subsystems with their own interactions while being part of the larger system. The adaptive nature of the system is due to the dynamic interactions between agents and the interaction between agents and their external environment (Berezowski et al., 2019) and can evolve in response to the needs of its environment (Sturmberg and Bircher, 2019) . Understanding animal health surveillance using a systems lens helps identify critical points and leverage points for system performance.

Stakeholder engagement in animal health surveillance

Stakeholder mapping was carried out in three districts (Sumbawanga, Tabora and Kilombero). This exercise revealed the level of interaction and influence of the various stakeholders in the animal health activities of which surveillance was a part. Various

stakeholders play different roles and apart from government stakeholders, animal health practitioners have been found to work closely with the private sector/NGOs and communities. The mapping exercise demonstrated that the system could benefit from diverse interactions and influences from various stakeholders, such as leveraging resources and broadening the horizon of the surveillance data source (George et al ., 2021).

Integration of animal health services into veterinary facilities

The study found that there were many existing and potential sources of surveillance data, but very few were actively used with limited integration. One of the recommendations was to integrate animal health services into veterinary facilities to improve the effectiveness of the surveillance system in early detection of disease while reducing associated costs. For example, integrating veterinary services at dipping sites can help motivate more people to use the services, while generating surveillance data through screening. Such an approach would reduce the cost of monitoring, as the overall cost would be shared with the cost of acaricides, soaking and water accessibility (George et al., 2021)

Leverage technologies to integrate animal health surveillance system

The world is moving towards big data and artificial intelligence to find solutions to increasingly pressing human challenges, including the detection and prediction of human and animal diseases. This study presented the integration of animal health surveillance systems by leveraging existing technological innovations, such as AfyaData, SILAB-LIMS and EMPRES-I to design a prototype Wanyama2 brand integrated surveillance system HeAlth SuRveillaNce (WARN ). It demonstrated the possibility of having an integrated multi-data source animal health surveillance system. The prototype of an Interoperable Animal Health Surveillance System in Tanzania (WARN) is flexible and adaptable beyond animal health, providing more opportunities for One Health surveillance.

Such integration of data and analytics also facilitates the exchange of animal health data with public health and other sectors in a coordinated One Health early warning system. This is coordinated in Tanzania through the national One Health intersectoral platform, coordinated by the Prime Minister’s Office.


Animal health surveillance systems are complex and their analyzes require a systems perspective and integrative solutions. Therefore, its analysis should not be done in isolation, but rather as part of larger systems. Such integrated approaches are likely to be scaled up in the One Health context to improve multisectoral One Health-based early warning.


  1. One Health was recently redefined in a joint statement by FAO, OIE, WHO and UNEP as “an integrated and unifying approach that aims to sustainably balance and optimize the health of people, animals and ecosystems. ”
  2. Wanyama is a Kiswahili word for animals

The references

  • Berezowski, J., Rüegg, SR and Faverjon, C. (2019). Complex systems approaches for animal health surveillance. Frontiers in Veterinary Science 6(153): 1 – 11.
  • George J, Häsler B, Komba EVG, Sindato C, Rweyemamu M, Kimera SI, Mlangwa JED. Leveraging subnational collaboration and influence to improve animal health surveillance and response: a stakeholder mapping in Tanzania. Before Vet Sci. 13 Dec 2021;8:738888. doi: 10.3389/fvets.2021.738888.
  • George J, Häsler B, Komba E, Sindato C, Rweyemamu M, Mlangwa J. Towards an integrated animal health surveillance system in Tanzania: making better use of existing and potential data sources for early warning surveillance . BMC Vet Res. 2021 Mar 6;17(1):109. doi: 10.1186/s12917-021-02789-x.
  • Sturmberg, JP and Bircher, J. (2019). Better and fulfilling health care at lower cost: the need to manage health systems as complex adaptive systems. F1000Research 8(789): 1 – 13.

Author’s acknowledgments

This article is based on a research study conducted by Janeth George as part of her doctoral program under the auspices of the SACIDS Foundation for One Health. The author would like to thank the Director of Veterinary Services of Tanzania, Professor Hezron Nonga, National Epidemiologist Dr Ramadhani Makungu, Zonal Veterinary Officers and District Council staff for their support in collecting data. data. The author is grateful for the constructive comments and contributions received from supervisors and mentors, Professors Sharadhuli Kimera, James D. Mlangwa, Mark Rweyemamu, Erick Komba, and Drs Barbara Häsler and Calvin Sindato. The study also benefited from contributions from the Tanzania Veterinary Laboratory Agency (TVLA) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO-Tanzania).

About SACIDS for One Health

The SACIDS Foundation for One Health (SACIDS) is a virtual ONE HEALTH Institute that connects academic and research institutions in Southern and Eastern Africa, which address infectious diseases of humans and animals within the African ecosystem, in an approach intelligent south-south-north innovation. partnership with world-renowned research and training centers. For more details visit

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