National Environmental Public Health Tracking Program: Bridging the information gap
In January 2001 the Pew Environmental Health Commission called for the creation of a coordinated public health system to prevent disease in the United States by tracking and combating environmental health threats. In response, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention initiated the Environmental Public Health Tracking (EPHT) Program to integrate three distinct components of hazard monitoring and exposure and health effects surveillance into a cohesive tracking network. Uniform and acceptable data standards, easily understood case definitions, and improved communication between health and environmental agencies are just a few of the challenges that must be addressed for this network to be effective. The nascent EPHT program is attempting to respond to these challenges by drawing on a wide range of expertise from federal agencies, state health and environmental agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and the program's academic Centers of Excellence. In this mini-monograph, we present innovative strategies and methods that are being applied to the broad scope of important and complex environmental public health problems by developing EPHT programs. The data resulting from this program can be used to identify areas and populations most likely to be affected by environmental contamination and to provide important information on the health and environmental status of communities. EPHT will develop valuable data on possible associations between the environment and the risk of noninfectious health effects. These data can be used to reduce the burden of adverse health effects on the American public.