Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Tracking Environmental Issues

The CDC currently funds 24 state and local tracking programs to protect people from health threats as part of their National Environmental Public Health Tracking (EPHT) Network. Since the network was launched, public health officials have used state tracking networks to identify trends in increased asthma, higher lead poisoning rates, and to identify people at high-risk of consuming contaminated drinking water.

Vermont was faced with a problem involving the high rate of asthma for individuals in the state. Asthma affects about eleven percent of adults and ten percent of children in the state. Some areas of the state have higher rates of hospital stays and emergency room visits due to asthma, but the reasons remain unknown.

Rutland County has the highest hospital rate of all Vermont counties. The Department of Environmental Conservation’s air monitoring data shows that this county also has the most days per year of air pollution from fine particulate matter. Ozone pollution along with mold and allergens in older housing may also be contributing to the health problem.

The Vermont Tracking Program is partnering with the Department of Health’s CDC-funded Asthma Program to use tracking data to identify trends and patterns in asthma hospitalizations and emergency department visits in the state. Better understanding of asthma triggers could lead to better ways to prevent asthma, lead to fewer hospitalizations and emergency department visits, and help the state to take the most appropriate public health actions.

Connecticut is another state where residents are concerned with asthma especially those residents living in urban areas. The Connecticut Tracking Program was developed as part of the state tracking network just to look at the state’s rate of residents with asthma and includes data from the state asthma program and from hospitals across the state.

Today, thanks to the tracking program, complete user-friendly asthma data for the state is available in one place for the first time. In addition, other health department programs in the state now have access to asthma data that can help them more readily evaluate their asthma prevention and control activities.

In 2012, CDC will be adding new data to their Tracking Network to help further define the health impacts of fine particles in the air, to learn how environmental issues can affect developmental disabilities, and how environmental issues are affecting cancers such as kidney, liver, mesothelioma, and melanomas.