CDC Starts Web-based Environmental Public Health Tracking Network

Called a "revolutionary tool," it will allow the public to track environmental exposures and chronic health conditions.

CDC has launched a Web-based Environmental Public Health Tracking Network, calling it a "revolutionary" surveillance tool that scientists, health professionals, and the public can use to track environmental exposures and chronic health conditions. "The ability to examine many data sets together for the first time has already resulted in faster responses to environmental health issues. We believe the Tracking Network holds the potential to shed new light on some of our biggest environmental health questions," said Howard Frumkin, MD, MPH, DrPh., director of CDC's National Center for Environmental Health.

"The Tracking Network is the foundation we need to make better environmental health decisions and help prevent chronic illnesses, such as asthma, cancer, and heart disease," said Michael McGeehin, Ph.D., director of the Division of Environmental Hazard and Health Effects at the center.

The site will include data from CDC-funded projects in California, Connecticut, Florida, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, and New York City. To date, those projects have brought about 73 public health actions to control potential illnesses from environmental exposures, CDC said. "For example, the Utah Department of Health received a call from a citizen concerned about cases of cancer in his neighborhood. In the past, a similar call would have prompted a study that would have taken up to a year to complete, with most of that time spent waiting for data. In less than a day, the Utah Tracking Program was able to let this resident know that the likelihood of cancer in his area was no greater than in the state as a whole," it explained. A current example is the use of tracking data to help Massachusetts school officials fix mold/moisture problems.

Five more projects will be announced this summer, having been funded in March 2009 by Congress, and CDC said it plans to expand to all 50 states "and track additional environmental hazards and health conditions to build a more complete picture of environmental public health."

Allies in the Tracking Network are 17 local and state health departments; federal partners, including NASA, the National Cancer Institute, EPA, and the U.S. Geological Survey; the American Public Health Association, Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists, National Association of County and City Health Officials, National Environmental Health Association, National Association of Health Data Organizations, and the National Association for Public Health Statistics and Information Systems.

The Tracking Network is available here, and a YouTube video about it is here -- one of several CDCStreamingHealth videos available at the same page.

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