Epidemiology and surveillance are used to understand how diseases impact society at a population level, as opposed to how an infection is impacting an individual person. Epidemiology is the study of how often diseases occur in different groups of people and why. Public health surveillance is the systematic collection of health data for analysis and interpretation. This work is essential to inform health planning, policy and services, and to evaluate if our responses to health problems are effective.
The Kirby Institute is an established leader in epidemiology and surveillance. We are experts in the collection and analysis of health data, and we produce a series of surveillance reports on infectious diseases in Australia. These are produced in close partnership with the Australian Government Department of Health and the health departments in all states and territories. As Australia’s first national HIV research centre, our earliest studies centred on epidemiological methods, conducted in close collaboration with the community and clinicians, to understand HIV. Our researchers formed the first cohort study of gay men in Sydney in the late 1980s, which over time revealed important insights into the paths of transmission of HIV.
For over 20 years, the Kirby Institute has coordinated the national surveillance reporting on HIV, STIs, viral hepatitis, on behalf of the Australian government. More recently, the Kirby Institute has undertaken a national serosurvey, using anonymous blood donor samples, to more accurately estimate how many people have had COVID-19.
This important information is used by governments to inform public health policy and practice and determine whether public health strategies are working, as well as by community groups, researchers and the clinical workforce. Through our work, we encourage innovative approaches to surveillance and research to address ongoing and emerging epidemics and respond to pertinent questions in relation to patterns of infectious diseases in Australia.
Programs working in this area:
- HIV Epidemiology and Prevention Program
- Viral Hepatitis Epidemiology and Prevention Program
- Surveillance and Evaluation Research Program
- Global Health Program
- Sexual Health Program
- Biosecurity Program