The economics of improving global infectious disease surveillance


Linda de Vries, Marion Koopmans, Alec Morton, Pieter van Baal

Summary box

  • The threat of new emerging infectious diseases demands improvements in infectious disease surveillance, which crucially depends on (real-time) data sharing and new technologies.

  • Infectious disease surveillance can be typified as global public good, and related important obstacles are financing and removing barriers for producing and sharing information.

  • Public financing and provision are important to enable cost-effective disease surveillance, since otherwise optimal levels for society are unlikely to be reached.

  • Additional investments in infectious disease surveillance are preferably based on sound economic evaluations considering the specific characteristics of infectious disease surveillance, however, a framework for cost-effectiveness analyses capturing the specific characteristics is yet non-existent.


With the global increase in population density, urbanisation, and global travel and trade, the threat of widespread outbreaks of infectious diseases has increased relentlessly, as evidenced by recent examples of COVID-19 and Ebola. Further, although the most important causes of death shifted to non-communicable diseases, in some poorer parts of the world, communicable diseases remain the most important cause of death. Crucial in the prevention of and reaction to these threats is early detection, which demands an infectious disease surveillance system that can signal unusual events. How to set up and improve surveillance and how to prioritise investments are questions that need input from different scientific disciplines. Here, we focus on some economic considerations.