21 October 2011
The collection of health information during public health crises can assist health authorities to prevent the spread of illness and disease. Early detection and monitoring of the health situation, as symptoms arise, from exposure to pathogens, harmful substances, and/or environmental changes can assist in timely intervention. Sugiura et al. (2011) administered a web-based questionnaire for health (WDQH) as a potential method for collecting information from a sample population for symptomatic surveillance. Sugiura et al. (2011) adopted two different survey methods:
1. an internet panel survey, which included participants already registered with an internet survey company; and
2. a collaboration with the Tokyo Consumers’ Co-operative Union (TCCU) internet survey, which recruited participants by website advertising.
Participants all received some financial incentives. Response rates averaged 47% for Internet Panel Survey I, 43% for Internet Panel Survey II, and 40% for the TCCU survey. During a seasonal influenza epidemic, the WDQH detected a rapid increase in the number of participants with fever through the early aberration reporting system.
Baseline surveillance data are critical to understanding relative severity of influenza seasons and for monitoring trends in disease occurrence. This health observation method, utilizing the internet as a mechanism for self-reporting, and its application for syndromic surveillance demonstrates numerous potential benefits to data collection, allowing quick, cost-effective epidemiological surveys to be conducted in real time. However, as this data collection is internet-based it introduces bias, as participants are limited to those who regularly have easy access to the Internet. Therefore, applicability of this method in areas with limited internet capabilities is restricted, and in other settings may exclude important sub-populations such as the elderly. Nonetheless this method may have uses for detecting the start of the influenza season and detecting unusual symptoms that may not be picked up as quickly through other systems.
Sugiura., H. et al. 2011. Development of a Web-Based Survey for Monitoring Daily Health and its Application in an Epidemiological Survey. J Med Internet Res; 13(3):e66