15 Things You Need to Know about Environmental Public Health Tracking

A newly released article in the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice highlights advances and successes of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Environmental Public Health Tracking Program since it began in 2002. This year marks the 15th anniversary of the Tracking Program. In recognition of this milestone, we’ve put together a list of 15 important facts you need to know about Tracking.

15 Things You Need to Know about Tracking

  1. In 2000, a Pew Environmental Health Commission report stated that the existing environmental health system was neither adequate nor well organized, and recommended the creation of a “Nationwide Health Tracking Network” for disease and exposures.
  2. Partly in response to the Pew report, Congress funded CDC in 2002 to begin working with state and local health departments, federal partners, professional organizations, and community groups to form the National Environmental Public Health Tracking Program.
  3. The Tracking Program was the first national effort to provide standardized health, environmental, and hazard data from multiple information systems in one, easy-to-access online system.
  4. The Tracking Program launched its online system, called the Environmental Public Health Tracking Network, in 2009. The Tracking Network brings together health data and environment data from a number of credible sources and provides supporting information to make the data easier to understand.
  5. The Tracking Program delivers data in different formats to help make data easier to use and understand by a variety of audiences. Examples include the interactive Data Explorer, which allows people to select health and environmental indicators they are most interested in viewing; the Info by Location tool, an infographic-style depiction of county-level data; and an application program interface (API) that makes the data easy for programmers to use for new applications and purposes.
  6. CDC funds health departments in 25 states and 1 city as part of the Tracking Program.
  7. Tracking Program grantees work to save lives and protect people from health threats. Grantees provide expertise, data, and tools to inform state, local, and community decisions about allocating resources, planning interventions, and evaluating efforts to protect and improve health. Explore success stories.
  8. In 2016, the Tracking Program initiated Tracking Program Awareness Week, a communication event held during the second week of July to bring awareness to tracking-related activities, data, and successes of CDC, grantees, and partners.
  9. The Tracking Program is successful because of the support from partners who are committed to improving health outcomes across the United States.
  10. Environmental public health tracking is more than just data; it’s also a diverse network of environmental public health professionals like epidemiologists, engineers, health educators, informatics practitioners, program managers, and more.
  11. The Tracking Network has data and content for over 20 topic areas related to environmental hazards, exposures, relevant health effects, and population characteristics.
  12. While other data systems provide a snapshot of a single point in time, the Tracking Network provides data spanning many years, allowing users to visualize and identify trends over time.
  13. Tracking data can be used to inform health impact assessments on topics ranging from transportation to land use, and climate change. You can find a Health Impact Assessment data guide and Health Impact Assessment diagrams on the Tracking Network.
  14. Moving toward 2020, the Tracking Program will continue working to direct innovative programs and solutions that protect and improve health of communities across the country by increasing efficiency of operations and exploring new strategies, partnerships, and methodologies.
  15. Drawing on valuable lessons learned in creating national and local tracking programs and networks, CDC has developed a Guide to Building an Environmental Public Health Tracking Network to help health departments build program capacity for planning and building their own tracking program.

Read related articles in a special supplement issue of the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice focused on Environmental Health Tracking.


About the Authors

Holly R. Wilson, MHSE, CHES, is the Communications Team Lead for CDC’s Environmental Public Health Tracking Program and has been part of the program since 2009. Prior to working in environmental health, she spent 10 years with other CDC programs communicating with and educating a wide variety of audiences about infectious disease prevention and control.

About Alex E. Charleston, MPH, is the Acting Deputy Branch Chief for the Environmental Public Health Tracking Program at CDC. He has worked with the Tracking Program for 10 years and has been at CDC for over 24 years. In his tenure at CDC, he has worked with CDC WONDER, Epi Info, Global Tobacco Surveillance, and Genomics in addition to the Tracking Program.