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A Focused Ethnographic Study of Sri Lankan Government Field Veterinarians’ Decision Making about Diagnostic Laboratory Submissions and Perceptions of Surveillance
Published: Thursday, October 25, 2012
Author: Kate Sawford et al.

by Kate Sawford, Ardene Robinson Vollman, Craig Stephen

The global public health community is facing the challenge of emerging infectious diseases. Historically, the majority of these diseases have arisen from animal populations at lower latitudes where many nations experience marked resource constraints. In order to minimize the impact of future events, surveillance of animal populations will need to enable prompt event detection and response. Many surveillance systems targeting animals rely on veterinarians to submit cases to a diagnostic laboratory or input clinical case data. Therefore understanding veterinarians’ decision-making process that guides laboratory case submission and their perceptions of infectious disease surveillance is foundational to interpreting disease patterns reported by laboratories and engaging veterinarians in surveillance initiatives. A focused ethnographic study was conducted with twelve field veterinary surgeons that participated in a mobile phone-based surveillance pilot project in Sri Lanka. Each participant agreed to an individual in-depth interview that was recorded and later transcribed to enable thematic analysis of the interview content. Results found that field veterinarians in Sri Lanka infrequently submit cases to laboratories – so infrequently that common case selection principles could not be described. Field veterinarians in Sri Lanka have a diagnostic process that operates independently of laboratories. Participants indicated a willingness to take part in surveillance initiatives, though they highlighted a need for incentives that satisfy a range of motivations that vary among field veterinarians. This study has implications for the future of animal health surveillance, including interpretation of disease patterns reported, system design and implementation, and engagement of data providers.
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