Many outbreaks begin with a cluster of unwell people or sudden deaths in a community which are not detected early enough by traditional surveillance systems. Often the community members are aware of the health threat, but the people who can mobilize response resources receive this information too late to limit the spread of a disease.
The Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement consists of a network of 17 million active volunteers worldwide. By making tools available for these community volunteers to report on health risks and other unusual events, we can ensure that help is provided in the right place at the right time.
Community based surveillance (CBS) is the systematic detection and reporting of events of public health significance within a community by community members. By using feedback from community volunteers, we can collect, analyse and interpret information on local health risks to prevent, identify and respond to disease outbreaks. As early warning of health risks leads to early action and lives saved, community based surveillance can stop disease outbreaks from turning into large scale epidemics and pandemics.