Decade of Tracking

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After a decade of tracking via a national environmental public health tracking program, our understanding of the connections between public health and the environment is vastly improved. CDC’s Environmental Public Health Tracking Program began 10 years ago with the idea that health and environmental problems are not always separate issues with unrelated solutions. Though the program began in 2002, the actual online Environmental Public Health Tracking Network launched in 2009. This website is a valuable tool that is helping draw a clear picture of the intricate relationships between environment and health. And, as we move forward, the Tracking Network has the potential to empower more and more organizations to save lives and protect health.

Before tracking, even simple questions about health and the environment could take months to answer.

With a tracking network in place, public health officials can respond quickly, often within hours, to locate hazard sources or answer citizens’ concerns.

Before tracking, environmental and health fields were often separated both physically and philosophically.

With tracking, these two worlds are brought together to benefit of all.

Before tracking, public health and environmental officials concentrated mainly on acute events such as hazardous chemical releases or point-source pollution, such as air pollution from a specific factory.

With tracking, in place, officials can trace amounts and geographic spread of pollutants over time. This capability allows the officials to monitor long-term trends and place those acute events in context.

Before tracking, environmental health surveillance was more difficult than infectious disease surveillance, a traditional area of concern for CDC and state and local health departments.

With tracking, we can apply the same “disease detective” skills to finding environmental causes of illnesses and then take preventive measures to protect the public’s health.

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Page last reviewed: January 3, 2014