Environmental Public Health Tracking Program

Administered by: National Centers for Environmental Health U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Suzanne K. Condon,
Assistant Commissioner
Principal Investigator

National Goal

To develop a standards-based environmental public health tracking network that allows direct electronic data reporting and linkage of health effect exposure and hazard data, which can operate with other public health systems

2001 Pew Environmental Health Commission Report, "America's Environmental Health Gap: Why the Country Needs a Nationwide Health Tracking Network"

Environmental health programs across the country lack the necessary financial resources/infrastructure to adequately respond to increasing public concerns over disease prevalence and the role of the environment

Massachusetts one of seven state health departments in the country to receive funding to implement environmental public health tracking systems

Initial year of funding for approximately $680,000; total three-year funding anticipated to be approximately $2.4 million

Thirteen other state or local health departments received planning grants (New Hampshire, Connecticut and Maine are among them).

Outcomes of Interest in Massachusetts

  • Pediatric Asthma
  • Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
  • Developmental Effects

Potential Environmental Exposures

  • Indoor Air Quality in Schools (MDPH 1999 study)
  • Exposure Opportunities to sources of petroleum distillates (e.g., state hazardous waste sites)
  • Areas of PCB Contamination (Jacobsen and Jacobson 1996)

Proposed Approach: Pediatric Asthma

Initial year will include 186 communities in Enhanced School Health Network; eventually will include entire state

Relies on reporting of pediatric asthma by school health nurses

This reporting has been shown to be highly reliable and complete, based on MDPH experience with Merrimack Valley study

Health data will be linked with existing and to-be-collected indoor air quality data from schools

Proposed Approach: Lupus

Focus on Boston

Initial case ascertainment through hospital discharge/billing databases

Case information will be linked with environmental exposures of interest (e.g., petroleum distillates)

Will work with MDEP to link with existing and most appropriate environmental databases

Proposed Approach: Developmental Effects

Initial efforts will focus on Housatonic River area of Massachusetts, but will expand to Southeastern Massachusetts

Track developmental effects among 3-10 year olds through existing databases (e.g., Department of Education Individual Education Program, MDPH Early Intervention Program

Health data will be linked with environmental (PCB) data from BEHA GIS system

Because one hypothesized mechanism of action of PCBs for developmental effects is its ability to depress thyroid hormone levels, health data is also proposed to be linked with existing newborn screening data on thyroid hormone levels

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This information is provided by the Environmental Health within the Department of Public Health.