Policy and Position Statements

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Environmental Public Health Tracking Position Statement

I. ASTHO Supports the Environmental Public Health Tracking Network

The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials strongly supports efforts to maintain and enhance the National Environmental Public Health Tracking Network (Tracking Network).1 The Tracking Network involves ongoing collection, integration, analysis, interpretation, and dissemination of data on environmental hazards, exposure to those hazards, and related health effects. State and local health departments play a vital role in monitoring environmental hazards and taking appropriate action to protect their residents.

Information from the Tracking Network enables participating states to effectively plan, apply, and evaluate public health actions to prevent and control environmentally related diseases. The Tracking Network has been successful in using environmental and public health data to inform public policy on a broad range of issues, ranging from identifying and planning interventions for populations in need of maternal and child health services to aiding in disaster response.2  

II. To advance the Tracking Network toward an optimally performing integrated system, ASTHO recommends or supports the following policy actions:

Ensure a Structured and Well-Coordinated Approach to Tracking

● Build environmental public health tracking capacity within state, local, and territorial health agencies. Foster coordination and collaboration between:

○ Health and environmental agencies.

○ Epidemiology, chronic disease, toxicology, environmental health, and other public health professionals.

○ The Tracking Network and other public health and environmental data collection programs.

● Promote collective, coordinated action by states with tracking programs to address problems of national importance.

○ Develop data exchange systems to connect the Tracking Network to other relevant sources of information.

■ Leverage existing cloud computing infrastructure to improve environmental public health surveillance and promote interstate data sharing/exchange.

○ Ensure that new federal and state surveillance systems are complementary to and interoperable with the Tracking Network.

● Recognize the value of the Tracking Network for expanding research on the linkages between environmental exposures and health outcomes. Promote data sharing with academic partners to enhance this research.

● Optimize the use of the Tracking Network for assessing and communicating environmental health risks; developing policy, especially among federal partners (e.g., FDA, EPA); and coordinating local, state, and federal environmental health program activities.

● Support state and national efforts to enhance both the Tracking Network and biomonitoring program activities by seeking efficiencies through shared technologies and resources, where appropriate.

● Leverage cloud computing technology and new data visualization tools to improve access and interpretation of environmental public health surveillance data.

● Encourage new federal and state surveillance systems to be interoperable with the Tracking Network. Interoperability of systems will allow easier access to robust information, improved functionality, and the sharing of resources efficiently.

● Conduct strategic planning activities to set the direction for the National Environmental Public Health Tracking Program and include tracking grantees and external partners in the process.

Establish Standards and Procedures to Guarantee Inclusion of All Vital Tracking Components

● Maintain the Tracking Network as a flexible system that allows states and territories to inform environmental health policies and decisions of most relevance and concern to their specific populations.

● Conduct routine, systematic evaluation of the standard set of Environmental Public Health Indicators (EPHIs) to ensure that the Tracking Network remains relevant for evaluating environmental health status. Identify opportunities to use state or national registries to expand the set of EPHI’s.

● Promote use of the Tracking Network to address public health issues associated with both natural and built environments.

● Encourage the incorporation of relevant environmental health tracking data in electronic health records to support clinical decisions and improve public health surveillance.

● Develop and implement shared policies that would lead to the acquisition of additional data (such as national or state registries on neurodegenerative disease) that are currently unavailable on the Tracking Network.

Increase Federal Support and Expansion of the Network to the United States and U.S. Territories

● Support the continuous development and maturation of a national Tracking Network through sustained federal funding. Extend federal funding to all state and territorial health agencies to develop a truly comprehensive national network to track environmental hazards, exposures to those hazards, and health effects.

● Include biomonitoring as a standardized, core component of environmental public health tracking.

Secure Sharing of Reliable and Relevant Information with the Tracking Network

● Ensure that information from the Tracking Network continues to be reliable and timely and compliant with Public Health Information Network standards, and protects the identity of individuals and their health status.

● Expand and complete a national Tracking Network with the capacity to provide information to reliably track trends in health; provide timely information to communities, policy-makers, regulators, and others on important environmental health issues; and enable environmental health professionals to identify populations at risk and respond to disease outbreaks, clusters, and emerging threats.

● Seek opportunities to produce and share fine temporal and geographic scale data between public health agencies and academic institutions while maintaining appropriate confidentiality requirements.

● Automate data collection processes to improve data collection efficiency, move towards access to real-time data, and collect data as close to its source as possible.


Approval History:

ASTHO position statements relate to specific issues that are time sensitive, narrowly defined, or are a further development or interpretation of ASTHO policy. Statements are developed and reviewed by appropriate policy committees and the ASTHO Executive Committee. Position statements are not voted on by the full ASTHO membership.

Environmental Health Committee Review and Approval: September 2015
Board of Directors Review and Approval: December 2015
Policy Expires: December 2018

For further information about this position statement, please contact ASTHO Environmental Health Policy staff at environmentalhealth@astho.org.  


Notes:

  1. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. National Environmental Public Health Tracking. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/tracking/. Accessed 10-1-2015.
  2. National Association of Chronic Disease Directors. Tracking in Action. Success Stories from CDC’s Environmental Public Health Tracking Network. Available at http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/www.chronicdisease.org/resource/resmgr/Tracking_in_Action_Publication/Tracking_in_Action_Final_rev.pdf. Accessed 10-1-2015.