Australian Paediatric Surveillance Unit

Deputy director

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The Australian Paediatric Surveillance Unit (APSU) contributes to the national surveillance effort and provides vital information on a range of rare infectious, vaccine-preventable, mental health, congenital and genetic conditions, and injuries for which detailed national data are not available from other sources. It aims to translate research into policy which directly improves outcomes for children and adolescents.

A total of 1330, or 92% of all paediatricians practising in Australia and other child health clinicians participate in monthly APSU surveillance by providing de-identified data on children with rare diseases and conditions.

Research achievements

The APSU's surveillance system proved its effectiveness in responding at short notice to monitor epidemiological emergencies during the 2008 influenza season. The system is currently monitoring the swine influenza pandemic H1N1 in 2009.

In addition to ongoing surveillance for 14 rare diseases and conditions and the development of new surveillance studies, the Unit is continuing to contribute to the development of innovative surveillance systems. These include the Paediatric Active Enhanced Disease Surveillance system (PAEDS), a hospital-based surveillance system piloted in four tertiary paediatric hospitals to pick up rare conditions, and the Australian Maternal Outcomes Surveillance System (AMOSS), which aims to provide detailed, systematically collected data on serious but rare outcomes related to birth and pregnancy.

In 2008 APSU convened a National Task Force for Rare Diseases. Its new program of research on the impact of rare diseases on families, clinicians and health services will inform the development of co-ordinated plans to address rare diseases and information resources for families and clinicians.

The APSU continues to inform public health policy and clinical practice. For example, it is monitoring the incidence of neonatal, congenital and severe complications of varicella after the introduction of the varicella vaccine; data collected on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome informed NH&MRC Australian Alcohol Guidelines, and data collected on seatbelt related injuries informed the 7th Amendment to the Australian Road Rules.

APSU has addressed surveillance gaps among Indigenous children and refugees by mounting surveillance for conditions particularly relevant to these groups, such as Acute Rheumatic Fever and Vitamin D deficiency rickets.

The Unit was the first of its kind in the world to undergo systematic evaluation and met key criteria set by the Centre's for Disease Control and Prevention.