Use of data linkage to improve communicable disease surveillance and control in Australia: existing practices, barriers and enablers

Stacey L. Rowe, Nicola Stephens, Benjamin C. Cowie, Terry Nolan, Karin Leder, Allen C. Cheng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Objectives: To review the use of data linkage by Australian state and territory communicable disease control units, and to identify barriers to and enablers of data linkage to inform communicable disease surveillance and control activities. Methods: Semi-structured telephone interviews were carried out with one key informant from communicable disease control units in all eight Australian states and territories between October 2017 and January 2018. Results: Key informants from all Australian states and territories participated in the interview. A variety of existing practices were identified, with few jurisdictions making systematic use of available data linkage infrastructure. Key barriers identified from the review included: a lack of perceived need; system factors; and resources. Existing regulatory tools enable data linkage to enhance communicable disease surveillance and control. Conclusions: We identified considerable variation in the use of data linkage to inform communicable disease surveillance and control activities between jurisdictions. We suggest that routinely collected, disparate data are systematically integrated into existing surveillance and response policy cycle to improve communicable disease prevention and control efforts. Implications for public health: Existing gaps in communicable disease surveillance data may affect prevention and control efforts. Data linkage is recognised as a valuable method to close surveillance gaps and should be used to enhance the value of publicly held health data.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-40
Number of pages8
JournalAustralian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2019


  • communicable disease
  • data linkage
  • infectious diseases
  • surveillance

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