The role of the Epidemiologist in the Infection Prevention Service, Hunter New England Local Health District

Sally Munnoch1, John Ferguson2

1Hunter New England Location Health District, John Hunter Hospital campus, Lookout Road, New Lambton Heights, NSW 2305.
2Hunter New England Location Health District, John Hunter Hospital campus, Lookout Road, New Lambton Heights, NSW 2305.


Although the incorporation of epidemiological principles in infection control is not a new science, the dedication of a staff member as Epidemiologist in the Infection Prevention Service is an innovative and relatively new concept in Australia. An Epidemiologist in the acute care setting is responsible for coordination of healthcare-associated infection surveillance activities, analysing data to identify trends and risk factors associated with disease, outbreak detection, and monitoring for the emergence or re-emergence of infectious diseases. Surveillance data are then used for stakeholder engagement and reporting, evaluating the effectiveness of infection prevention measures and initiating research to identify new and innovative methods for reducing and preventing healthcare associated infections. The increasing complexity of healthcare infection surveillance, the greater emphasis on public reporting, including liaison with public health, and the need for effective outbreak management of multi-drug resistant organism outbreaks place greater demands on the Infection Prevention Service.  As has become apparent in the USA, the Epidemiologist complements and synergises with the work of other infection prevention consultants enabling the implementation of more robust, time efficient surveillance that contribute to improving the quality of patient care. Effective risk identification through surveillance and specific research also enables the targeting of preventative actions to conserve resources, prevent infections and control outbreaks.

About the College

The ACIPC is the peak body for Infection Prevention and Control professionals in the Australasian region. Our stated vision is the prevention and control of infection in our communities. We commenced in January 2012 bringing together the various State and Territory infection control associations formerly in AICA (The Australian Infection Control Association) to support and encourage collaboration across Australasia.

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