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This document provides a vision for the Environmental Public Health Tracking (EPHT) Network. The document is designed to 1) describe, at a conceptual level, the function and purpose of the EPHT Network, 2) provide a profile of the stakeholders and users of the Network, and 3) outline the major features of the EPHT Network.
Linking environmental and public health systems is currently very complex and time-consuming due to a lack of coordination, communication, and standards. The EPHT Program has been established to address the issues of environmental public health tracking. The EPHT Network will make data and tools available to support the EPHT Program and other public health and environmental health programs. It will be a distributed, secure, web-based network that will provide access to environmental and health data that are collected by a wide variety of agencies. The Network will comprise of individual state networks and a national network, and will comply with Public Health Information Network (PHIN) standards and be able to exchange data with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Exchange Network, where applicable. It will also implement a common data “vocabulary” for environmental public health tracking to improve collaboration and allow direct electronic data sharing. The EPHT Network will provide access to environmental, health, and linked environmental-health data from both centralized and de-centralized data stores and repositories, and it will support data exchanges and data linkages at local, state, regional, and national levels.
The primary feature of the EPHT Network is its capability to provide access to a variety of widely dispersed environmental and public health data and to support the two-way exchange of data between partners. Various levels of access will be provided to users depending on their role and purpose. Another feature is its capability to enable the systematic linking of health effects, exposures, and/or hazard datasets on an ad-hoc or ongoing basis, depending on the user’s data access rights. The Network will also provide a toolset for data analysis, visualization, reporting, and monitoring and will provide the necessary security and protection to sensitive or critical data and systems.
Key benefits of the Environmental Public Health Tracking Network include the capability to 1) provide timely information to all users; 2) integrate local, state, and national databases of environmental hazards, environmental exposures, and health effects; 3) allow broad analysis across geographic and political boundaries; 4) promote interoperable systems via compliance with standards; 5) increase environmental public health capacity at the state and local levels; 6) provide the means to enhance and improve data; and 7) provide a secure, reliable, and expandable means to link environmental and health data.
A variety of stakeholders and users was identified by members of the CDC Environmental Health Tracking (EHT) Branch and a cross section of grantees. These stakeholders and users include federal, state, local, and tribal public health and environmental agencies and staff, universities, health care providers, laboratories, legislators, advocacy groups, industry and trade groups, and the general public.