What is Environmental Public Health Tracking?
EPHT is the ongoing collection, integration, analysis, interpretation, and dissemination of data on environmental hazards, exposures to those hazards, and health effects that may be related to the exposures. The goal of tracking is to provide information that can be used to plan, apply, and evaluate actions to prevent and control environmentally related diseases.
See all of our data on the Iowa Public Health Tracking Portal.
Why is an EPHT Network needed?
The environment plays an important role in human development and health. Researchers have linked exposures to some environmental hazards with specific diseases. Prior to the development of EPHT, no systems existed at the state or national level to track many of the exposures and health effects that may be related to environmental hazards. In addition, in most cases, existing environmental hazard, exposure, and disease tracking systems are not linked together. Because existing systems are not linked, it is difficult to study and monitor relationships among hazards, exposures, and health effects.
Environmental public health tracking is a type of surveillance. It is a way of incorporating data for analysis and reporting. Iowa’s Environmental Public Health Tracking Network is a website that brings together data concerning some health and environmental problems. The goal of this network is to provide information to help improve where we live, work, and play.
The Iowa Tracking Network is part of CDC's National Environmental Public Health Tracking Program. CDC provides funds to 23 state and local health departments to develop local tracking networks. These networks feed into the National Tracking Network.
What types of data are on the EPHT Network?
Different types of data are used to learn how the environment affects people's health. The EPHT Network provides information about the following types of data:
- Health effect data: Data about health conditions and diseases, such as asthma and birth defects.
- Environmental hazard data: Data about chemicals or other substances such as carbon monoxide and air pollution in the environment.
- Exposure data: Data about the amount of a chemical in a person's body, such as lead in blood.
- Other data: Data that helps us learn about relationships between exposures and health effects. For example, information about age, sex, race, and behavior or lifestyle choices that may help us understand why a person has a particular health problem.
How is the data presented?
The data on the network are presented as Nationally Consistent Data Measures (NCDMs). Using these consistent forms of measurement and data reporting make it possible to compare data collected from different states.
Data on the Tracking Network can be accessed through both public and secure portals. The Public portal is fully accessible on the Internet, and provides the primary means by which most users view general information and non-sensitive data. This site comprises the Iowa Public Tracking Portal. Currently, users are able to view pre-made charts maps and graphs; in the future the portal will allow users to build custom charts maps and graphs.
The Secure portal includes more detailed or restricted data so users need to be pre-authorized.
Why are some data restricted?
The privacy of individuals’ health data is protected by law. When the number of cases of a health condition is small and/or the total number of people from which the case(s) come is small, those particular data cannot be made public since it could be possible to trace the data back to individuals. Since the risk for a breach of confidentiality is higher when reporting small numbers, some health data are “suppressed” or “restricted”.
What is metadata?
Metadata are "data about data". Metadata describe the content, quality, and context of a dataset and provide links to additional information such as quality assurance documents and data dictionaries. The Tracking Network contains metadata records for datasets used to create the Tracking Indicators and for datasets maintained by national, state, and local environmental health partners.