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What is Environmental Public Health Tracking?

Public health tracking, also called public health surveillance, is a way to monitor the health of communities over time. This is commonly done for infectious diseases, such as flu or West Nile virus.

Environmental public health tracking looks at environmental hazards, possible exposure to those hazards, and health effects (like chronic illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths) associated with those hazards. This is important since environmental exposures are responsible for approximately 5% of early deaths in the United States. Collecting this information over time makes it possible to see trends and patterns. Environmental public health tracking investigates possible associations between environmental exposure and resulting health effects. This helps us better understand how the environment affects human health. Understanding how health and the environment are connected is an essential step in our efforts to protect the health of our communities.

In 1988, in its report "The Future of Public Health," the Institute of Medicine noted that the removal of environmental health authority from public health agencies has led to fragmented responsibility, lack of coordination, and inadequate attention to the health dimensions of environmental problems.

In 2000, the Pew Environmental Health Commission issued the report "America's Environmental Health Gap: Why the Country Needs a Nationwide Health Tracking Network" (PDF). The Commission detailed an "environmental health gap," a lack of basic information needed to document links between environmental hazards and chronic disease. At that time, no systems existed at the state or national level to track many of the exposures and health effects that may be related to environmental hazards. In addition, in most cases, existing environmental hazard, exposure, and disease tracking systems were not linked together. Because existing systems were not linked, it was difficult to study and monitor relationships among hazards, exposures, and health effects.

"When the Pew Commission report came out, everyone- the press, the public, Congress- couldn't believe that a Tracking Program didn't already exist."

-Shelly Hearne, DrPH
Founding Executive Director, Trust for America's Health


The report found that "while overt poisoning from environmental toxins has long been recognized, the environmental links to a broad array of chronic diseases of uncertain cause are unknown." To close this gap, the Pew report called for integrating tracking systems for environmental hazards, bodily exposures, and diseases; linking data to allow swift analysis; and using the results to prevent disease and save lives."

Because the existing environmental health system was neither adequate nor well organized, it recommended the creation of a nationwide health tracking network for disease and exposures. The National Environmental Public Health Tracking Network is the CDC's answer to these issues.
In 2002, the CDC established the National Environmental Public Health Tracking Network (National Tracking Network). The CDC was awarded funding which they used to establish Tracking Networks in state and local health departments and schools of public health. Through these partnerships, (state, local and universities) the CDC wanted to build environmental public health capacity, increase collaboration between environmental and health agencies, identify and evaluate environmental and health data systems, build partnerships with non-governmental organizations and communities, and develop model systems linking environmental and health data. To view all current National Tracking Network participants, see the map below.

The National Tracking Network is a system of integrated health, exposure, and hazard information and data from a variety of national, state, and city resources. On the National Tracking Network's website, you can view maps, tables, and charts with data about:

  • chemicals and other substances found in the environment
  • some chronic diseases and conditions
  • the area where you live

Click here to visit the State and Local Tracking Programs.

2015 grantee map
The New Mexico Environmental Public Health Tracking Network (New Mexico Tracking Program) is a part of the National Tracking Network. The New Mexico Tracking Program helps you understand the link between the environment and health by integrating existing health and environmental data in a standardized format. Our goal is to provide the necessary information, tools, and resources to prevent and control environmentally related health effects.

The New Mexico Tracking Program improves and expands the environmental public health surveillance capacity for the State of New Mexico. This is accomplished through better data linkage, display, and analysis. It also supports New Mexico's goal of evidence-based public health information and action. The accurate and timely tracking of data makes it easier to investigate disease impacts and trends; recognize disease patterns; and identify high-risk populations and geographic areas.

This website provides the data, information, and tools necessary to help you understand more about how the environment impacts human health.

If you have any questions, please Contact Us.

Mission

Without question, environmental contaminants affect people's health. Environmental hazards are among parents' top health concerns for their children, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Americans are concerned about hazards and health impacts related to environmental exposures. Citizens and policy makers want access to current, relevant, and accurate information about environmental exposures and health outcomes to facilitate individual, community, state, and national decision-making about adopting strategies to reduce the burden of disease attributable to the environment.

Researchers have linked specific diseases with exposures to some environmental hazards, such as asbestos and lung cancer. However, other links remain unproven, such as the suspected link between exposure to disinfection by-products and bladder cancer. Previously no system existed at the state or national level to track many of the exposures and health effects that may be related to environmental hazards.

The Environmental Public Health Tracking Network (Tracking Network) is one way to fill these gaps. The mission of tracking is to provide information that can be used to plan, apply, and evaluate actions to prevent and control environmentally related diseases. Understanding how these and other environmental factors are linked to chronic disease is essential to disease prevention and to protecting the health of our communities.

Goals

  1. Build sustainable National and State Tracking Networks
  2. Build Tracking workforce and infrastructure
  3. Provide data to inform health policy, practices, and other actions
  4. Advance environmental public health science and research
  5. Foster collaboration among health and environmental groups

The New Mexico Tracking Program helps protect New Mexicans' health by strengthening the capacity and infrastructure to understand and respond to environmental public health concerns. Here are some of the ways the New Mexico Tracking Program accomplishes this.

An important function of the New Mexico Tracking Program is to support investigations of environmental public health concerns. Ensuring that the State of New Mexico has the necessary capacity to understand, investigate, and respond to these types of concerns is vital to protecting the health of New Mexicans.

The NM EPHT Web site is supported by Cooperative Agreement Number 5 U38EH000949 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of CDC. Please use the following citation: " Retrieved Sun, 23 April 2017 4:04:34 from New Mexico EPHT Tracking Public Web site: https://nmtracking.org/ ".

Content updated: Mon, 13 Feb 2017 18:39:03 MST