Surveillance is a key function of public health, but what does it mean? This course introduces public health surveillance concepts and principles for public health workers who have little or no prior training in epidemiology. You'll learn about surveillance systems in local, state, and national public health practice and how these important systems are used in tracking diseases and other public health threats. This is part of a nine-part series on epidemiology.

Learning Objectives

After completing this course, you should be able to:

  • Define public health surveillance
  • Describe the different uses of surveillance systems
  • Describe the legal basis for disease reporting
  • List the steps in establishing a surveillance system
  • Explain the process for evaluating surveillance systems
  • List examples of surveillance systems at the local, state, and national levels

Intended Audience

Public health practitioners, especially those working in smaller local and state health departments, with little or no prior training in epidemiology.

Epidemiology Series

What Is Epidemiology in Public Health?

Data Interpretation for Public Health Professionals

Basic Infectious Disease Concepts in Epidemiology

Introduction to Public Health Surveillance

Introduction to Outbreak Investigation

Study Types in Epidemiology

Measuring Risk in Epidemiology

Cause and Effect in Epidemiology

Screening in Public Health Practice


Web-based, Flash presentation. This online course has an audio narration and interactive exercises and scenarios. This course should take about 1.5 hours to complete.

Course Instructor

James L. Gale, MD, MS
Professor Emeritus of Epidemiology
Northwest Center for Public Health Practice
University of Washington, School of Public Health

Technical Requirements

This course requires certain software and browser plugins to be installed. See our Technical Requirements.


This online training course is audio narrated. A print version is available in the Supplemental Material section at the bottom of this page. Please note that the print version does not include interactive exercises, quizzes, or the final assessment. To receive a print version of the quizzes in this course, or if you have any difficulties, please contact

Screenshot of training depicting its navigation, text, and graphics.
July 26, 2018
Infectious Disease & Immunizations
Law and Policy & Ethics
Program Planning & Evaluation
Self-Paced Course
1.5 hours
Competency Domains: 
Analytical/Assessment Skills