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Environmental Public Health Tracking

Publication Date: April 2007

Policy Statement

National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) Policy Statement on Environmental Public Health Tracking, Adopted April 2007

WHEREAS, a 2001 report issued by the Pew Environmental Health Commission report called, "America's Environmental Health Gap; Why the Country Needs a Nationwide Health Tracking Network for Disease and Exposures" stated that current tracking efforts are fragmented, uncoordinated, and inadequate. The Institute of Medicine also reported that there is too little attention to health aspects of environmental problems1;

WHEREAS, the national cost of chronic disease is overwhelming: 4 of every 5 deaths annually, 100 million people suffering each year and $325 billion in annual healthcare and lost productivity2;

WHEREAS, there are limitations in the ability to link data between environmental factors such as pollution and the increases in chronic diseases and reduce or eliminate other diseases because there is no tracking mechanism to prevent and better understand and manage environmental factors;

WHEREAS, while currently 50 infectious diseases are tracked on a national basis there is not a similar network to track chronic diseases and the connections that the environment contributes to them2;

WHEREAS, only four states report tracking autoimmune diseases, such as Lupus, even though there is increasing evidence to believe rates of these diseases are rising and the environmental links remain unknown2;

WHEREAS, despite evidence that learning disabilities have risen 50 percent in the past 10 years, only six states track these disorders and there are no answers about causes or possible prevention strategies. Additionally, most states do not track severe developmental disabilities like autism and mental retardation. A recent report of the National Academy of Sciences estimates that 25 percent of developmental disorders in children are caused by environmental factors2

WHEREAS, for most of the US, there is no systematic tracking of asthma despite the disease having reached epidemic proportions and being the No. 1 cause of school absenteeism. Between 1980 and 1994, the number of people with asthma in the United States jumped by 75 percent. Without prevention efforts that include a strong tracking component, the Commission has estimated that the number of asthma cases will double by 20202;

WHEREAS, without comprehensive environmental health tracking, policymakers and public health practitioners lack information that is critical to establishing sound environmental health priorities and decisions, including information needed for the public to make community decisions;

WHEREAS, the National Environmental Health Association is keenly aware of the major role that environmental health programs play in addressing the lineages between environmental exposure and adverse human health effects;

WHEREAS, the National Environmental Health Association is establishing a technical section devoted to environmental heath surveillance and data collection in recognition of the important role that environmental health professionals will play in the National Health Tracking Program;

WHEREAS, having a viable Health Tracking Program is critically important to achieve effective land use planning and community design;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) supports the Center for Disease Control and Prevention through the establishment of a Nationwide Health Tracking Program and Network to enhance public health response capabilities to environmental threats;

THEREFORE, an environmental public health tracking network could significantly enhance the effectiveness of local and state environmental public health practitioners and researchers in their ability to identify and address environmental and other public health conditions that create negative health outcomes;

THEREFORE, NEHA specifically supports building a sustainable National Environmental Public Health Tracking Network that potentially: increases environmental public health "tracking" capacity; disseminates credible information; advances environmental public health science and research; re-integrating the fields of public health and the environment; enables agencies to work together and inform each other of emerging issues and priorities; raises awareness about environmental public health; and improves response time3;

THEREFORE, NEHA will continue to support and participate in the National EPHT Network collaboratively along with other national organizations such as the, Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, National Association of County and City Health Officials and more than 60 state and national health and environment organizations who have signed on in support of this initiative including: Trust for America's Health, the American Lung Association, American Public Health Association, Children's Environmental Health Network, National Association of School Nurses, Physicians for Social Responsibility, March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation, and Natural Resources Defense Council and the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists.

1Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Information for Environmental Agencies: Environmental Public Health Tracking Program, May 2005.
2The Pew Environmental Health Commission, America's Environmental Health Gap: Why the Country Needs a Nationwide Health Tracking Network, 2000.
3NEHA Fact sheet, Environmental Public Health Tracking, 2004.