Tracking Networks: Linking Health and the Environm

Tracking Networks: Linking Health and the Environment  

By Scott Hendrick   Vol . 20, No. 04/ January 2012 

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The Network tracks birth defects and childhood lead poisoning.



The environment plays an important role in human health. Many human diseases have links to dirty air or water. For example, asbestos can cause lung cancer, and lead poisoning leads to stunted development.

A project by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tracks environmental hazards, human exposures and adverse health effects to better understand these links. The Environmental Public Health Tracking Network gathers information from federal, state and local health and environment agencies into an online database for use by researchers, health officials, policymakers and the public. The ultimate goal of the network is to prevent and control disease outbreaks.

The network integrates three components:  hazards monitoring, exposure data and health effects surveillance. Hazards tracked by the network include chemical exposures and toxins found in air, water and soils. Exposure data include information about the actual presence of these hazards in people’s bodies. Disease registries, hospitalization records and health surveys contribute to the tracking network’s data. CDC’s network also tracks population characteristics, including density, poverty levels, median household income, health insurance coverage and education levels.


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