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Veterinarian recording animal health status. ©FAO/Ishara Kodikara

Risk-Based Animal Health Surveillance Systems (RISKSUR)

Working towards the next generation of animal health surveillance tools: The RISKSUR Project

The RISKSUR research project is aimed at developing decision support tools for the design of cost-effective, risk-based animal health surveillance and is funded under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme.


The first decade of the 21st century was marked by several animal health events of global impact, including outbreaks of influenza H5N1, H1N1 and H7N9. The emergence and spread of these zoonotic diseases occurred concurrent with increasing globalisation and intensification of animal production, in response to increased demand for animal protein, particularly from emerging economies. Particularly following the global financial crisis in 2007/8, budgets for government surveillance activities had to be reduced due to widely adopted financial austerity policies. Given this situation, the effectiveness of surveillance has to be urgently improved, so that we are able to deal with such outbreaks in future, since it is considered more a matter of when they will occur rather than if. One requirement for achieving an improved protection of human health requires much more effective linking of human and animal health surveillance information consistent with the One Health approach. Given this wider context, the RISKSUR research project will make its contribution towards cost-effective animal surveillance by utilising novel scientific methodologies and, integrating epidemiological approaches with socio-economic and qualitative methods.


The three year project led by Prof. Dirk Pfeiffer (RVC, UK) started in November 2012, and involves a trans-disciplinary consortium from 10 different countries of 12 partners with internationally recognised expertise in animal disease surveillance methodologies and economic evaluation.   The consortium also has applied experience in delivery of surveillance programmes in a variety of socio-economic contexts from a national and global perspective and in the translation of research into practical applications.



  • The Royal Veterinary College (RVC, UK)
  •  Accelopment Inc. (Switzerland)
  •  Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA, UK)
  • Arcadia International (Belgium)
  •  Centre de Cooperation International en Recherche Agronomique pour le Developpment (CIRAD, France)
  • Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO, Italy)
  • Friedrich Löffler Institut – Bundesforschungsinstitut für Tiergesundheit (FLI, Germany)
  • Gezondheidsdienst voor dieren bv (GD, Netherlands)
  • SAFOSO Inc (Switzerland)
  • Statens Veterinaermedicinska Anstalt (SVA, Sweden)
  •  Tracetracker AS (TT, Norway)
  •  Universidad Complutense de Madrid (UCM, Spain)


The research involves the development of a conceptual evaluation framework which examines the purpose of animal health surveillance from a holistic systems perspective, with a particular emphasis on economic aspects. The epidemiological surveillance methodologies are covered under the three categories:

1) Detection of  exotic, new, or re-emerging diseases,

2) Demonstration of freedom from disease and

3) Prevalence estimation and case detection for endemic disease.

The work under each of the topics will be integrated into a common epidemiological and economic evaluation framework. This will then be translated into a set of practical surveillance decision support tools for policy makers.


RISKSUR is organised in different work packages (WP). WP1 will develop a conceptual generic framework for design of risk-based surveillance systems, including novel scientific methods. The latter will be developed for each of the three surveillance objectives in WPs 2-4. The results of these will be evaluated for single and multi-objective surveillance systems specifically in relation to their efficiency in WP5. The transfer of knowledge and technology to key stakeholders from policy and industry is facilitated through the development of tools assisting the implementation of the systems under WP 6 as well as communication and training in WP 7.  FAO is contributing to WP5 (Evaluation of epidemiological and economic effectiveness of surveillance systems), WP6 (Decision making tools for implementing risk-based surveillance) and WP7 (Training, dissemination and communication).


The outputs from the RISKSUR research will integrate epidemiological with economic approaches and through the development of a common evaluation framework for the first time allow their application to very different diseases and surveillance goals. FAO as an international organization and partner of RISKSUR is committed to adapt some of the tools developed under RISKSUR for an European countries to the socioeconomic context of countries in other regions and to deliver specific training for veterinary services.