The Process for Developing and Reviewing Series of National Guidelines (SoNGs)

The Communicable Diseases Network of Australia (CDNA) is developing a suite of protocols for use by Australian public health authorities to follow up cases of selected notifiable communicable diseases. These are called the Series of National Guidelines (SoNGs). Each SoNG should be as concise as possible, referenced (using "Vancouver style";) and follow the SoNGs template, with the following appendices: a simple, low reading age fact sheet (approximately 2 pages in length); a Public Health Unit (PHU) checklist (approximately 1 page in length); and, an example data collection form for use by PHU staff (approximately 1-2 pages).

Page last updated: 14 December 2018

Process for developing a SoNG

  1. CDNA members agree that a SoNG is required for a particular disease.
  2. CDNA nominates a small working group and chair to develop the SoNG. The working group generally includes:
    • A CDNA jurisdictional member;
    • A subject matter expert from within CDNA or nominated by CDNA;
    • A public health practitioner from a PHU;
    • A chair; and
    • A technical writer
  3. The Chair advises the Case Definitions Working Group (CDWG) that a SoNG is being revised or developed so the case definition can be reviewed if required.
  4. The Chair advises the Public Health Laboratory Network (PHLN) that a SoNG is being revised or developed so that laboratory input and review of the relevant section(s) of the draft SoNG can be sought if required.
  5. Where jurisdictions already have public health guidelines for the disease, the working group identifies the most recently revised guideline as the basis for the first draft. The technical writer reviews other existing State and Territory guidelines and any relevant national case definitions to identify any discrepancies.
  6. The technical writer liaises with the National Surveillance Committee, to ensure the objectives of surveillance for the disease are reflected in the SoNG.
  7. The technical writer liaises with ATAGI, to ensure any updates on immunisation as part of a public health response are reflected in the SoNG.
  8. The technical writer reviews the recent literature, similar guidelines produced by the United States of America (USA), the United Kingdom (UK), Canada, New Zealand and the current American Public Health Association’s Control of Communicable Diseases Manual to identify any discrepancies.
  9. The technical writer discusses any issues and the drafting process with the Chair, and together they develop an initial draft of the SoNG using the SoNGs template. The technical writer ensures the SoNG is consistent with other existing guidance that relates to the public health management of the disease.
  10. The Chair convenes the working group teleconference and circulates the initial draft to the group a few days before the meeting. Any necessary feedback is incorporated into the draft by the technical writer following this meeting. Advice from individual working group members or other non-working group experts is sought as required.
  11. Laboratory input and review of relevant section(s) of the draft SoNG is sought from PHLN through a PHLN out-of-session item. Feedback from PHLN members is collated by PHLN Secretariat and distributed to the technical writer for review.
  12. The technical writer sends a revised draft to the relevant CDNA subcommittee (e.g. National Tuberculosis Advisory Committee, National Arbovirus and Malaria Advisory Committee, the Blood Borne Viruses and Sexually Transmissible Infections Standing Committee) as is appropriate for comment / approval and then to the working group members for final comment. Any necessary feedback is incorporated into the revised draft(s).
  13. When the working group is happy with a final draft, it is sent to CDNA for comment and endorsement, noting that only Jurisdictional Executive Group (JEG) members of CDNA endorse the SoNG. The draft SoNG is concurrently sent to PHLN for review and endorsement of Section 8 – laboratory testing.
  14. If required, any comments from CDNA, BBVSS, NHEMS and PHLN are incorporated into the draft and it is sent back to the working group Chair to determine if the working group needs to reconvene to address the comments or if the SoNG returns to JEG for endorsement, depending on the changes required in the draft SoNG.
  15. The timeframes allocated to members to review the new and revised SoNGs are as follows:


SoNG Development
Timeframe for Consideration
Minor revision Two weeks for JEG and PHLN
Major revision Six weeks for JEG and two weeks for PHLN
New SoNG Six weeks for JEG and two weeks for PHLN
Urgent SoNG The Chair of the CDNA to determine

A major revision involves considerable changes to the SoNG that alter the guidelines substantially, such as a change in the response process for PHUs. In this case, guidelines must be reviewed as a whole. Minor changes to the SoNG include small changes to the content such as an addition of a reference or clarification around a specific issue. Minor changes do not require extensive review of the whole document. A minor revision does not include changes to case definitions only (if it does not alter anything else in the SoNG). Changes to case definitions only in a SoNG are addressed in item 16.

  1. If a SoNG has been endorsed by CDNA and PHLN, but the case definition is under review, the SoNG will be provided to the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) for endorsement, or noting (see item 16), with a statement in the SoNG that the case definition is pending and will be included once available. A statement encouraging the reader to check the case definitions webpage for updates will be included. If AHHPC endorse/note the SoNG it will be published with the statement about the pending case definition. If a case definition is revised after a SoNG has been published, the SoNGs coordinator is responsible for ensuring the SoNG is updated with the current CDNA-approved case definition. If the revised case definition does not impact on the rest of the SoNG, the updated SoNG does not require CDNA endorsement (but will be provided for information) and does not need to be sent to AHPPC for noting and can be published on the website.
  2. Any issues with endorsement by the jurisdictional members are resolved with the Working group Chair before finalising the SoNG for submission to AHPPC.
  3. Upon endorsement by CDNA, any new SoNG is sent to AHPPC for endorsement and any revised SoNG is sent to AHPPC for noting.
  4. Once AHPPC has endorsed or noted the SoNG, it is uploaded onto the CDNA SoNGs webpage of the Australian Government Department of Health website.
  5. When a SoNG has been uploaded to the website, it can be used by PHUs, or other relevant bodies.
  6. If a SoNG includes a new recommendation or updates a previous recommendation regarding contact tracing on a plane, the SoNG needs to be provided to the Health Emergency Management Branch, Office of Health Protection, for inclusion in the Revised Guidelines for the follow-up of communicable diseases reported among travellers on aeroplanes.
  7. Any feedback regarding an implemented SoNG is sent to CDNA for consideration, via

Process for prioritising and reviewing a SoNG

  • Once a SoNG has been endorsed for use, the need for revision is monitored by the appropriate area within the Australian Government Department of Health and by CDNA work plan to come up for review every six months (or earlier if policy changes/new evidence deem it necessary).
  • CDNA chair identifies someone to review the SoNG to determine if changes are required.
  • If updating is required, then a small group is formed to draft a new or revised SoNG based on the process for developing a SoNG (refer above).