Disease outbreaks pose a real threat and can be particularly damaging and difficult to control in developing countries where health resources are limited. Key to this is public health surveillance, which is succinctly defined by the WHO as ‘an ongoing, systematic collection, analysis and interpretation of health-related data essential to the planning, implementation, and evaluation of public health practice’. This practice is key to informing disease prevention and control measures. Dr Raita Tamaki is a disease surveillance advisor of JICA and his expertise is brought up by 16-year experiences in developing countries, including Papua New Guinea, the Philippines and Kenya. In the Philippines, he was responsible for setting up and managing the hospital and community based surveillance system for comprehensive epidemiological and etiological studies to generate reliable data with technology and provide generalizable evidence for sustainable health system and practice under the Department of Virology, Tohoku University School of Medicine in Sendai, Japan. Currently operating as a disease surveillance advisor in Kenya, Tamaki is working for the Ministry of Health (MoH) as a JICA expert. ‘Due to limited capacities and resources in developing countries, more efficient and cost-effective methods with innovative technologies for disease surveillance and outbreak control need to be developed and applied.’ he highlights. Tamaki believes that every single figure in health statistics such as mortality has its own story. Imagination towards the stories and innovation in technology for surveillance are two pillars that uphold his enthusiasm for improving public health in developing countries.