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Bull World Health Organ. 1992; 70(4): 487–497.
PMCID: PMC2393391

Epidemiology's contribution to health service management and planning in developing countries: a missing link.


Two hypotheses are examined in the light of experience and the literature: (1) health service planning requires little epidemiological information, and (2) health services rarely get useful answers to relevant epidemiological questions. In the first hypothesis, the theoretical robustness of the concept of a minimum package of activities common to all facilities belonging to the same level of the system and the extent to which it is unaffected by variations in the frequencies of most diseases are examined. Semi-quantitative analyses and analysis of routine entries and participation suffice to adapt this package to the local context. Some of the methods which give a fundamental role to epidemiological information are criticized. With regard to the second hypothesis, the pertinent contributions epidemiology may make to health service organization are reviewed. These include identification of diseases that justify special activities (health maps and interepidemic surveillance), determination of the activities that should be added to the health centres, the political usefulness of rare impact assessments, and the relevant demographic elements. Finally an epidemiological agenda is proposed for specialized centres, districts, universities, and the central decision-making level of health ministries in developing countries.

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Selected References

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