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Hauora tūmatanui

Public health

ESR’s team of public health professionals provide critical insights and expert advice to help prevent and reduce illness in Aotearoa.

Public Health header


From monitoring infectious diseases today to looking ahead to challenges of the future, ESR’s team of health scientists and experts play a critical role in the New Zealand health system.

ESR's public health professionals are at the forefront of protecting Aotearoa through detecting, reducing and preventing the spread of disease, researching infectious diseases, and supporting a health system informed by good data, intelligence and systems.

As the preferred scientific provider for Manatū Hauora (Ministry of Health), ESR provides scientific support to prevent, detect and investigate infectious disease outbreaks, biological threats and emerging threats to public and environmental health. 

Our national surveillance programmes collect data on more than 50 diseases in Aotearoa, providing intelligence on outbreaks, descriptions of disease spread and explanations for disease patterns and trends.

We operate national public health laboratories providing specialist testing for a wide range of pathogens, including strain identification and epidemiological typing to support public health investigations. Our teams provide specialist expertise and reference testing infrastructure, ensuring New Zealand is prepared for emerging health threats as we experienced during COVID-19.

We work with national and international partners to support critical research programmes in areas including WellKiwis, developing more effective influenza vaccines, and co-leading Te Niwha, New Zealand’s infectious diseases research platform.

Together, our teams contribute to a New Zealand public health system underpinned by excellent science, quality data and powerful tools. 

Surveillance and Intelligence

Surveillance and Intelligence

Public health surveillance is the ongoing, systematic collection, analysis and interpretation of data on specific health events for use in the planning, implementation and evaluation of public health programmes. 

ESR operates a number of public health surveillance systems on behalf of Manatū Hauora. These systems provide critical information about more than 50 priority infectious diseases that require public health action. These include diseases which are legally notifiable as well as other important diseases which are not (e.g. acute respiratory infections). We analyse and interpret the data to provide intelligence including, identification of outbreaks, descriptions of disease spread and explanations for disease patterns and trends.

Existing surveillance programmes are routinely evaluated and new programmes are investigated to ensure we remain at the forefront of public health best practice.

Why do we undertake surveillance?

  • Estimate magnitude of the problem
  • Determine geographic distribution of illness
  • Understand impacts on different populations
  • Portray the natural history of a disease
  • Detect epidemics / define a problem
  • Generate hypotheses, stimulate research
  • Evaluate control measures
  • Monitor changes in infectious agents
  • Detect changes in health practices
  • Facilitate planning for health services and prevention/control measures

What surveillance is ESR currently responsible for?

  • Notifiable disease surveillance
  • Outbreak surveillance
  • Sexually transmitted infections
  • Influenza viruses
  • Respiratory, enteric and herpes viruses

You can use the information in our intelligence hub to find out more about our surveillance systems, check dashboards for data at-a-glance, and access more detailed intelligence summaries and reports: 

Public health laboratories

Public health laboratories

ESR's public health laboratories undertake laboratory-based surveillance of communicable diseases and pathogens of public health importance. Diagnostic laboratories throughout New Zealand submit specimens or isolates from their patients to ESR's national reference laboratories for strain identification and epidemiological typing. 

Specialist services

Specialist services

ESR’s internationally renowned experts collect, collate and analyse data and intelligence on a wide range of diseases present in New Zealand, undertake health risk assessments on issues and products, and provide advice and expertise in a range of research areas.

Testing & Analysis

Testing & analysis services

ESR undertakes laboratory-based surveillance of communicable diseases and pathogens of public health importance. For this surveillance, diagnostic laboratories throughout New Zealand refer specimens or bacterial isolates from their patients to ESR's national reference laboratories for strain identification and epidemiological typing.

Learn more

Experts in the area


Networks and Collaborations

New Zealand Microbiology Network

Clinical microbiology laboratories play a critical and increasingly complex role in the diagnosis of infectious disease. The New Zealand Microbiology Network (NZMN) connects these laboratories together in order to provide timely and consistent responses to issues relating to laboratory testing and to ensure regular communication between microbiology laboratories in New Zealand.

The Ministry of Health contracted the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR) to establish and facilitate the NZMN in 2014.

ESR also facilitates two further groups which have been established with the guidance of the NZMN: the New Zealand National Antimicrobial Susceptibility Testing Committee (NZNAC) and the Genomics Special Interest Group (GSIG).

New Zealand National Antimicrobial Susceptibility Testing Committee

The New Zealand National Antimicrobial Susceptibility Testing Committee (NZNAC) was formed in late 2017 to provide expert advice and to further the collaboration and sharing of skill development in the area of antimicrobial susceptibility testing within New Zealand.

The establishment of a NZ NAC was a year one action in the Ministry of Health and Ministry for Primary Industries 2017 New Zealand Antimicrobial Resistance Action Plan. The NZ NAC was established with guidance from the New Zealand Microbiology Network and its membership includes clinical microbiologists and medical laboratory scientists. The committee may second additional members from time to time in response to emerging issues or to address specific issues.

Genomics Special Interest Group

The Genomics Special Interest Group (GSIG) was established in 2022, in response to:

  • the extensive epidemiological and clinical use of Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) during the response to COVID-19,
  • expansion in the use of the MinION and other platforms in New Zealand, and
  • recognition of the growing importance and application of genomics more widely in clinical microbiology and in public health microbiology.

The GSIG was convened to enable those with an interest in microbial genomics to share knowledge and experience.