What is Environmental Public Health Tracking (EPHT)?
Environmental Public Health Tracking (EPHT) is a nationally integrated environmental and public health information system.
It provides access to data and information that people can use to make informed decisions about their health, while encouraging them to take care of the environment.
What is the purpose of EPHT, and why is it important?
The purpose of the national EPHT program is to make environmental health data and information available in a consistent format for state grantees, and to track the collected data over time. Linking environmental and health data helps us respond in a more timely fashion to potential health problems related to the environment and environmental exposures.
The environment plays an important role in human development and health. Researchers have linked exposures to environmental hazards with specific diseases. One example is the association between exposure to asbestos and lung cancer. Another example is the link between exposure to lead and decreased mental function in children. In its 1988 report "The Future of Public Health," the Institute of Medicine noted that the removal of environmental health authority from public health agencies has led to fragmented responsibility, lack of coordination, and inadequate attention to the health dimensions of environmental problems.
Until EPHT was created, no systems existed at the state or national level to track many exposures and health effects related to environmental hazards. In addition, environmental hazard, exposure, and disease tracking systems generally were not linked. This made it difficult to study and monitor relationships among hazards, exposures, and health effects. Environmental Public Health Tracking was created as a response to those needs.
What is an EPHT content area and why were they chosen for this program?
Content area is a broad environmental exposure or health outcome category (e.g., Air Quality, Cancer, and Carbon Monoxide Poisoning). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) established the content areas for EPHT and chose them because of the availability of state-level data available for them. Additional content areas have been added, and will continue to be added over time.
What is an EPHT indicator and why were they chosen for this program?
Indicators are chosen for each content area, and provide a way to further define pollutants in the environment, specific health effects, or diseases. For example, the indicators for Air Quality are ozone and particulate matter (PM 2.5), as they help us examine and understand the effects of air pollution. Both of these air pollutants can aggravate asthma and other respiratory diseases. The chosen indicators are those for which historical data is already available for most state grantees.
What is an EPHT measure and why were they chosen for this program?
The measures for each content area are used to further define the indicators. For environmental content areas, the measures are often related to whether or not a result meets or exceeds a standard. For health content areas, measures are typically a count of the number of cases or the rate of disease. For example, the measures for the Air Quality indicators ozone and particulate matter (PM 2.5) are the number of days above the standard and the percent of the population that is affected in the areas above the standard.
The graphic below shows the relationship between Content Area, Indicators, and Measures
Why can't I view health and/or environmental data for the most current years?
The availability of data depends on the program area from which the data come. In order for data to be made available on the web portal, it requires the data year to be over (i.e. after December 31), statistical review, and/or a certification process. For health data, this rigorous process can mean that the data are available more than a year after the data year has concluded. Environmental data is typically half a year behind.