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Home Eurosurveillance Weekly Release  2003: Volume 7/ Issue 41 Article 1
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Eurosurveillance, Volume 7, Issue 41, 09 October 2003

Citation style for this article: Health Canada publishes Learning from SARS report and recommends expansion of communicable disease surveillance in Canada. Euro Surveill. 2003;7(41):pii=2306. Available online:

Health Canada publishes Learning from SARS report and recommends expansion of communicable disease surveillance in Canada

Editorial team (, Eurosurveillance editorial office

Health Canada published the report of the National Advisory Committee on SARS and Public Health, Learning from SARS: Renewal of public health in Canada, earlier this week (1). The committee was chaired by David Naylor from the University of Toronto, included public health officials from across Canada, and was assisted by both the World Health Organization and the United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. It was set up in May 2003 by the Canadian government and has assessed the lessons learnt from the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), and made recommendations for the future management of communicable disease outbreaks and other challenges.

In common with Hong Kong’s SARS Expert Committee report, published last week (2), the Canadian report takes the SARS epidemic and the problems arising during the national response to this crisis as a starting point to identify many areas for urgent improvement in the healthcare system. Some of the systemic deficiencies which the SARS epidemic laid bare include a lack of protocols for data and information sharing, inadequate capacity for epidemiological outbreak investigation, and inadequacies in outbreak management protocols, infection control, and communicable disease surveillance.

One of the committee’s key recommendations is the establishment of a Canadian Agency for Public Health, to be led by a Chief Public Health Officer of Canada, and which would initiate a national public health strategy. Greater investments should be made in disease surveillance systems, health emergency preparedness and epidemic response capacity, and data sharing protocols between laboratories.

The report also comments on the international aspects of SARS, and emphasises the benefits of helping to strengthen the emergency response capacities of other countries. It is recommended that Canada build health research and development activities into its international outreach programmes, and involve itself more internationally in emerging infectious diseases. The committee notes that Canada may have missed opportunities to learn from Hong Kong, China and Singapore during the epidemic.

An executive summary is available, and the Canadian outbreak is described chronologically.

  1. Health Canada. Learning from SARS: Renewal of Public Health in Canada. A report of the National Advisory Committee on SARS and Public Health. Publication Number: 1210. Ottawa: Health Canada; 7 October 2003. ( Also available in French. (
  2. Eurosurveillance. Hong Kong SARS Expert Committee publishes its report. Eurosurveillance Weekly 2003; 7 (40): 02/10/2003. (

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