In September, 2000, the Pew Environmental Health Commission issued a report entitled America’s Environmental Health Gap:
Why the Country Needs a Nationwide Health Tracking Network.
In this report, the Commission documented that the existing environmental health systems were inadequate
and fragmented and recommended a “Nationwide Health Tracking Network for disease and exposures.” In response to the report, Congress appropriated funds in the fiscal year 2002’s budget for the CDC to establish National Environmental Public Health Tracking Program (Tracking Program) and Network and has appropriated funds each year thereafter to continue this effort.
Environmental Public Health Tracking (Tracking) is the integrated surveillance of health, exposure, and hazard information and data from a variety of national, state, and local sources.
The Tracking Network is unique in that it provides the United States with accurate and timely standardized data and supports ongoing efforts within the public health and environmental sectors to improve data collection, accessibility, and dissemination as well as analytic and response capacity.
Data that were previously collected for different purposes and stored in separate systems are now available in a nationally standardized format allowing programs to begin bridging the gap between health and the environment.
Having accurate and timely tracking data enables public health authorities to determine temporal and spatial trends in disease and potential environmental exposures, identify populations most affected, and develop and assess the environmental public health policies and interventions aimed at reducing or eliminating diseases associated with environmental factors.
The availability of these types of data in a standardized network provide researchers, public health authorities, healthcare practitioners, and the public to have a better understanding about the possible associations between the environment and adverse health effects, and to assist them with decision making.
The concept of using Tracking data and other program resources to inform public health action is explicit in the Tracking Program’s mission, with the ultimate goal of reducing the burden of environmentally related health conditions.
Since 2005, one approach in monitoring Tracking Program performance is by gathering information on how the Tracking Program has been able to drive public health actions within funded jurisdictions.
These public health actions include using Tracking data to:
identify populations at risk; responding to outbreaks, clusters, and emerging threats; identify, reduce, and prevent environmental hazards; and informing policy makers, communities and other regarding potential environmental health risks.
Since the end of 2015, over 340 public health actions have been documented by current state and local grantees.
With rapid changes in information technology and tools; changing data and information needs; changes in the population, disease, and environment, as well as the ability to continue to meet the growing needs of public health practitioners, researchers, and others, it is critical that the existing expertise, resources, and technical infrastructure in the Tracking Program and Tracking Network continue to support and enhance the availability, quality, timeliness, compatibility, and utility of existing hazard, exposure, and health effect data.