Environmental Public Health Tracking
Environmental causes of chronic diseases are hard to identify. Measuring amounts of hazardous substances in our environment in a standard way, tracing the spread of these over time and area, seeing how they show up in human tissues, and understanding how they may cause illness is critical. The National Environmental Public Health Tracking Network is a tool that can help connect these efforts.
While there are many ways to define environmental health, for the purposes of this website, it means how the environment might affect a person's health and how people might affect the health of the environment. The environment is our air, our water, our food, and our surroundings. Tracking describes how we collect data, interpret it, and report it. We are acquiring data about hazards in the environment, if a person was exposed to one of them, and health problems that may be related to these exposures. Different types of data are used to learn how the environment affects people's health. The Tracking Network provides information about the following types of data:
- Health effect data: Data about the health conditions and diseases, such as asthma and birth defects.
- Environmental hazard data: Data about the chemicals or other substances such as carbon monoxide and air pollution in the environment.
- Exposure data: Data about the amount of a chemical in a person's body, such as lead in blood.
- Other data: Data that helps us learn about relationships between exposures and health effects. For example, information about age, sex, race, and behavior or lifestyle choices that may help us understand why a person has a particular health problem.
The Environmental Public Health Tracking Network
Environmental public health tracking is a type of surveillance. It is a way of incorporating data for analysis and reporting. CDC's National Environmental Public Health Tracking Network is a website that brings together data concerning some health and environmental problems. The goal of this network is to provide information to help improve where we live, work, and play. The Tracking Network is part of the CDC's National Environmental Public Health Tracking Program. The Tracking Program includes not only the Tracking Network but the people, resources, and program management involved in building this network. The Tracking Network is a discrete product of the Tracking Program. CDC works with state health departments to develop local tracking networks. These networks feed into the National Tracking Network.
Environmental Public Health in Kansas
The Kansas Environmental Public Health Tracking program (Tracking) is fully committed to the advancement of environmental health in the state to support KDHE’s broader goal “to protect and improve the health and environment of all Kansans”. To repeat after the California-based Public Health Institute, what surrounds us shapes us. In other words, the more we know about our environment, the better prepared we are to promote healthy environments and decrease exposure to health hazards. The Tracking program’s goal is twofold, to collect, analyze, share, and disseminate data on both environmental hazards and suspected health outcomes and secondly, to use information learned from the data to guide public health actions to promote a healthier environment for all Kansans.
Along with numerous nationally consistent data and measures the Tracking program website will present to the public summaries of public health actions, epidemiological reports, prevention tips, and other resources to keep the public informed on how to protect themselves and their loved ones against environmental hazards.
From Data to Action
The Tracking program has many functions beyond the collection, analysis, and utilization of data. We also are involved in different types of surveillance, conduct non-infectious disease cluster investigations, interpret data for use by internal and external partners as well as the public. Information gathered related to environmental health is used to inform others, enable public health actions, and guide environmental health interventions. The goal of tracking is to provide valuable information that can be used to plan, apply, and evaluate actions to prevent and control environmentally related diseases or hazardous exposures. In other words, we take data and help turn it into action.
Tracking Program Overview
There is a fundamental gap in our knowledge of how the environment affects health. Chronic diseases, such as asthma, cancer, diabetes and heart disease account for over 70 percent of deaths in the United States. While links between certain chronic diseases and the environment have been reported, many of these connections remain unclear. Information that is available through the Environmental Public Health Tracking Network can be used to help identify hazards and risks that can be alleviated or avoided to create a better quality of life for Kansas families.
Through a cooperative agreement between the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the Kansas Environmental Public Health Tracking Program has developed applications to collect, analyze, interpret and publish environmental health data indicators as part of the National Environmental Public Health Tacking Network.
The tracking network can help to identify threats to the health of Kansans posed by the environment and will improve how KDHE responds to those threats. Individuals are able to access critical environmental health information that can assist them to make informed decisions and take action if necessary to protect themselves and their families. The network is part of a national initiative led by the CDC and includes a web-based system to track key environmental hazards and health problems across Kansas. Timely, integrated environmental and health data at the federal, state and local levels via the national and state tracking networks provide a basis for early notification of pending environmental threats or unexpected events.