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Environmental public health tracking. (EHPnet).

Until recently, the United States had no integrated network to assess local and state data to determine exposures and health effects linked to environmental hazards. But now the National Center for Environmental Health of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is laying the groundwork for what is planned to become a nationwide environmental public health tracking network.

In 2002, the agency awarded the first round of grants for this program, totaling $17.5 million, to 17 states, 3 local health departments, and 3 schools of public health to begin building a network that is standards-based, allows direct electronic reporting and linking, and is compatible with other public health systems. The program's website,, is an information resource on this project.

The At A Glance page describes how the program came into being, outlines its mission and goals, and provides an overview of the program grants that have been awarded to date. Grantees are working on three different types of projects: planning and capacity building, enhancement and demonstration (which involves strengthening existing programs and establishing concrete data linkages to build support for electronic reporting programs and their use in policy development), and establishing university centers of excellence. A color-coded map shows the locations of different types of currently funded activities throughout the nation. This page also lists examples of the external partners--nongovernmental organizations and government agencies--that are involved with the project and gives a snapshot of future planned activities.

The Funded Programs & Contacts page lists links to information on each of the currently funded programs. The New Mexico Department of Health program page, for example, describes the program's goals, how the program components are to be developed, and partners with whom the department will work to build their program, which in this case include the New Mexico Environmental Department, the Indian Health Service, the City of Albuquerque Environmental Health Department, and the Bernalillo County Environmental Health Department.

Links on the homepage lead to information on the CDC's Biomonitoring Program and the Environmental Public Health Indicators (EHPI) Project. The goal of the Biomonitoring Program is to prevent environmental disease by assessing exposures from a number of sources (including acute emergencies than can result in fatalities), identifying at-risk populations, and monitoring exposure trends over time. This program produces the National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals. The 2003 report, available on the site, features biomonitoring exposure data for 116 environmental chemicals that were measured over the period 1999-2000 by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey [also see "Body of Evidence," p. A394 this issue]. The EHPI Project is a result of work by the CDC and the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists to develop a list of priority areas and indicators that need to be evaluated to bridge the gap in the understanding of environmentally related diseases and the possible hazards and exposures that may trigger them. Visitors can find a list of all core indicators identified, including measures and potential data sources.

The Resources link on the homepage leads to a list of nine other environmental and public health tracking resources. These include the CDC National Electronic Disease Surveillance System, the National Association of County and City Health Officials' Protocol for Assessing Community Excellence in Environmental Health, the Pew Commission report titled America's Environmental Health Gap: Why the Country Needs a Nationwide Health Tracking Network, and the website for Trust for America's Health, a nonprofit group working to protect communities, especially those at high risk for environmental and other public health threats.
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Author:Dooley, Erin E.
Publication:Environmental Health Perspectives
Date:Jun 1, 2003
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