Background. Multinational peacekeepers, both military and civilian, often deploy to areas of the world where significant health threats are endemic and host country public health systems are inadequate. Medical surveillance of deployed personnel enables leaders to better direct health care resources to prevent and treat casualties. Over a 5-month period, June to October 1995, a medical surveillance system (MSS) was implemented in support of the United Nations Mission in Haiti (UNMIH). Information obtained from this system as well as lessons learned from its implementation and management may help decrease casualty rates during future multinational missions. Methods. Over 90% of UNMIH personnel (80% military from over 11 countries and 20% civilian from over 70 countries) stationed throughout Haiti participated in the MSS. A weekly standardized reporting form included the number of new outpatient visits by disease and non-battle injury (DNBI) category and number of personnel supported by each participating UN medical treatment facility (MTF). Previously, medical reporting consisted of simple counts of patient visits without distinguishing between new and follow-up visits. Weekly incidence rates were determined and trends compared within and among reporting sites. The diagnoses and numbers of inpatient cases per week were only monitored at the 86th Combat Support Hospital, the facility with the most sophisticated level of health care available to UN personnel. Results. The overall outpatient DNBI incidence rate ranged from 9.2% to 13% of supported UN personnel/week. Of the 14 outpatient diagnostic categories, the three categories consistently with the highest rates included orthopaedic/injury (1.6-2.5%), dermatology (1.3-2.2%), and respiratory (0.9-2.2%) of supported UN personnel/week. The most common inpatient discharge diagnoses included suspected dengue fever (22.3%), gastro-enteritis (15%), and other febrile illness (13.5%). Of the 249 patients who presented with a febrile illness, 79 (32%) had serological evidence of recent dengue infection. Surveillance results helped lead to interventions that addressed issues related to field sanitation, potable water, food preparation and vector control. Conclusions. Despite hurdles associated with distance, language, and communications, the MSS was a practical and effective tool for UNMIH force protection. UN requirements for standardized medical surveillance during deployments should be developed and implemented. Furthermore, planners should recognize that if ongoing medical surveillance and related responses are to be effective, personnel should be trained prior to deployment and resources dedicated to a sustained effort in theatre.
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