Privacy and Surveillance: The History and Politics of Public Health Reporting

Award Year:
Ronald Bayer, Amy Fairchild
Public Health Strategies, History of Health Policy and Public Health
Although surveillance has long been a feature of public health practice, there has been no systematic and comprehensive analysis that meaningfully relates the history of surveillance to current public health policy and practice. Drs. Bayer and Fairchild will address the broad question of how shifting understandings of privacy, confidentiality and individual rights - as reflected in constitutional, ethical, and social norms - have affected our understanding and acceptance of public health surveillance. Through historical and contemporary analysis, the project will shed light on the core ethical and policy challenges posed by surveillance and provide key information for advancing public policy discussions. Case studies with both state and federal components - including infectious disease reporting, vaccine, cancer and birth defect registries, and occupational health reporting - as well as study of the Model State Public Health Privacy Act - will contribute to the development of public policy that is sensitive to privacy and confidentiality and the demands of research and public health.