Purpose of the Food and Waterborne Disease Program
Changing patterns of individual and global economic behavior have complicated the public health control of food and waterborne diseases in recent years and have accentuated the need for an improved public health infrastructure to detect illness. Florida has a unique structure in place for food and waterborne disease surveillance and investigation with eight regional food and waterborne illness epidemiologists to assist 67 county health departments in the investigation of these outbreaks. Obviously a good surveillance system is necessary to ensure a good reporting system and a major concern was to develop a system that would better capture the number of outbreaks that are occurring.
This program is designed to address tasks at the county, regional, and state levels. The counties themselves maintain food and waterborne illness complaint logs and perform outbreak investigations with an epidemiological team composed of an environmental health professional, a nurse and an epidemiologist. In addition to the knowledge and experience the regional epidemiologists bring to the program, they provide technical assistance in outbreak investigations and report writing along with assistance in questionnaire development and statistical analysis. Regional epidemiologists also play a role in helping to train county health department staff in a variety of aspects of outbreak investigations. The statewide food and waterborne disease coordinator synthesizes annual and quarterly statewide data and provides information to other state and federal agencies during outbreak investigations.
The Florida Department of Health, together with its team of regional food/waterborne illness epidemiologists and county health departments is responsible for investigating illness outbreaks associated with food and water consumption and recreational water use.