Optimisation of national resources for animal disease surveillance

Project ID: 170805
Project Name: Optimisation of national resources for animal disease surveillance
CEBRA Project Leader: Prof Tom Kompas and Assoc Prof Andrew Robinson
DAWR Sponsor: Tim Chapman, First Assistant Secretary
DAWR Division: Biosecurity Animal Division
DAWR Project Leader: Louise Sharp and Andrew Breed, Animal Health Epidemiology and One Health section, Animal Health Policy Branch

  • Victorian DEDJTR
  • The University of Melbourne
  • The Australian National University

Australia relies heavily on animal health surveillance both to protect the health and productivity of its livestock and other animal industries, protect human and wildlife health and to support trade and market access. In the current world trade environment, the ability to demonstrate freedom from disease is crucial for maintaining export trade in livestock products and for re-establishing trade as soon as possible after an outbreak has occurred. There is growing recognition by Australia’s national and jurisdictional governments and agricultural industries that Australia needs to strengthen its surveillance arrangements to be able to mitigate biosecurity threats while continuing to facilitate and enhance trade (East et al. 2016). The reliability of Australia’s surveillance system has been questioned, largely owing to reductions in expenditure on agriculture and a reduction in the veterinary services in rural areas (Nairn et al., 1996; Frawley, 2003; Matthews, 2011; OIE 2015).

Resources for surveillance are finite and therefore need to be allocated optimally. The Intergovernmental Agreement on Biosecurity (IGAB) promotes a risk-based approach to biosecurity i.e. prioritising the allocation of resources to the areas of greatest return. Current surveillance activities include:

  • general surveillance at the jurisdictional level i.e. detection, investigation and reporting of disease syndromes. This is relied upon to detect most outbreaks of livestock disease.
  • active/targeted national surveillance programmes (e.g. National Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy Surveillance Program and the National Arbovirus Monitoring Program)
  • various regional surveillance projects that have been developed independently, operate in one or only a few jurisdictions and contribute to the national surveillance effort (e.g. knackery surveillance in Victoria).

Despite considerable investment by Commonwealth and jurisdictional governments, there is currently no national agreement or consistency around prioritisation, rationalisation or optimisation of activities for onshore (post-border) animal disease surveillance. Efficient and defensible allocation of increasingly scarce surveillance resources across all risk areas presents a significant challenge for the department and our jurisdictional colleagues.

This project aims to provide a mechanism that enables a rational, consistent and optimal allocation of national resources for terrestrial animal disease surveillance.

The projects outcomes include:

  1. Develop and refine methods for which finite animal disease surveillance resources can be allocated at the national and jurisdictional level, based on robust, agreed processes, ultimately leading to a national surveillance portfolio that can efficiently and effectively detect and monitor animal disease threats. Victoria is taken as a case study of this approach, and as a leading example of how the project may be extended to other jurisdictions.
  2. Stakeholders will have increased confidence in Australia’s animal health status.

During year 1 (stage 1 and 2) of this project jurisdictional agency discussions took place and an agreement on a path forward for surveillance prioritisation, which now clearly requires the use of structured decision making, existing spread modelling and expert elicitation methods. It was determined that the focus for the optimal surveillance modelling – determining value-added and expenditures across the portfolio of pests – will focus on FMD, Classical Swine Flu, Avian Influenza (HPAI), and Bluetongue. The locational focus remains Victoria, although with a developed model context that can be used more generally. There may be some substitutions for pests depending on model constraints and data availability.

In conjunction with key stakeholders (including Biosecurity Animal Division, Northern Australia Quarantine Strategy (NAQS) and jurisdictional chief veterinary officers and surveillance managers) is in the final stages of finalising the suggested approach, methodologies and details of the case study. In particular, this phase of the project is developing the suggested approach for a computer based model used in Year 2 to evaluate the efficacy of different post-border surveillance scenarios and methodologies to detect incursions. The project team has determined that a combination of model platforms between AADIS and optimisation techniques standard at CEBRA will be the preferred approach.

During year 2 (stage 3) the project aims to produce useful prioritisation and optimisation tools the methodology should draw on, and extend, epidemiological and economic models (portfolio theory and cost benefit analysis) such as those developed in previous CEBRA projects. These methods will then be applied and extended to other jurisdictions, i.e. national roll-out, will be investigated. The preferred model approach will be a combination of two elements, with AADIS informing the optimization project: (1) Potentially extending AADIS to account for spread and control characteristics of other pests/diseases in the case study; and (2) Using, in particular, dynamic programming methods and portfolio allocation methods developed in previous CEBRA projects on animal disease and optimal surveillance. The emphasis will be on #2 informed by AADIS modelling.

Research Program

Data and Information

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