Evidence applied to prevention: this could be the catchphrase of the PASSI surveillance system. The meaning traditionally attributed to population monitoring refers to a continuous and systematic collection of data that are then interpreted and made available to those in charge of designing, implementing and assessing public health actions. A surveillance system covering the main health determinants and the adoption of prevention measures should:
Data about relevant health determinants and preventive measures are found in official sources, but periodicity, timeliness and local representativeness are often insufficient. Moreover, information about people’s knowledge on healthy habits, lifestyle and public health interventions, and about their perceptions and understanding of these issues are lacking.
The PASSI surveillance system aims to establish a specific database at local level, continuously updated, in order to monitor trends of risk factors and preventive measures. The database will allow to follow their development over time.
The shift from cross-sectional surveys to on-going monitoring entails different ways of collecting and interpreting data. Continuous data collection allows to grasp aspects which could not be perceived otherwise (such as trends or rapid changes of some variables in association with public health actions, natural events, etc).
The results of PASSI surveillance confirm the idea that the progress of a health care system requires greater interaction between service supply and demand, between users and providers of care. PASSI has the potential of becoming a real opportunity of empowerment for the health system especially at local level.