Environmental public health tracking provides the data we need to make informed decisions about our environment and our health. By definition, it is the ongoing systematic collection, integration, analysis, interpretation, and dissemination of data about environmental hazards, exposure to environmental hazards, and health effects potentially related to exposure to environmental hazards. With environmental public health tracking, we can provide a picture of the relationship between the environment and our health.
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. State and federal agencies acquire 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. Tracking describes how we collect this data, interpret it, and report it.
Different types of data are used to learn how the environment affects people’s health. The NH EPHT Program provides information about the following types of data:
- Environmental hazard data: Data about chemicals or other substances such as carbon monoxide and air pollution in the environment. Read more about hazard data.
- Exposure data: Data about the amount of a chemical in a person’s body, such as lead in blood. Read more about exposure data.
- Health effects data: Data about health conditions and diseases, such as asthma and birth defects. Read more about health effect data.
- 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. Read more about other data.
Environmental public health tracking is a type of surveillance. It is a way of incorporating data for analysis and reporting. The goal of environmental public health tracking is to protect communities by providing information to federal, state, and local agencies. These agencies, in turn, will use this information to plan, apply, and evaluate public health actions to prevent and control environmentally related diseases.
Only by systematically measuring environmental insults, tracing their geographic distribution, documenting their residues in human tissues, and understanding their connection with illness can that information help prevent suffering and disease. Integrating all of these elements sets environmental public health tracking apart from traditional disease surveillance.