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What is EPHT?

What is EPHT?

Environmental Public Health Tracking, or EPHT, is the ongoing collection, integration, analysis, and interpretation of data about environmental hazards, exposure to environmental hazards and health effects potentially related to environmental exposures. Public health tracking is often referred to as surveillance. Expanding a tracking network in Oregon and across the United States allows for a "one-stop shop" to look at different environmental health information all with the goal of improving health.

Why do we study connections between health and the environment?

Every day we encounter chemicals, physical agents, and other substances in the air, water, soil and even the food we eat. Research shows a connection between our environment and our health, but we still have a long way to go in understanding what links the two. Environmental hazards have subtle effects on human health, rarely causing immediate illness the way epidemic disease germs do.

Researchers have linked exposures to some environmental hazards with specific diseases, but we need better information and more sophisticated tools to understand the causes of these diseases if we are to prevent them.

What is the history of EPHT?

In 2001, the Pew Environmental Health Commission detailed an "environmental health gap", a lack of basic information needed to document links between environmental hazards and chronic disease. After the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the 1970s, health and the environment often became separate realms with separate administrative structures, separate funding, and separate legal authorities for action. The Commission found that the environmental public health system was fragmented, neglected, and ineffective, and did not have the capability to respond adequately to environmental threats.  As a result, an urgent need existed for a surveillance system that presented beyond just infectious diseases but also included noninfectious diseases integrated with environmental hazard and exposure data.

Since 2002 , the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have laid a foundation and continue to grow the National Environmental Public Health Tracking system to link environmental hazards and the diseases they cause. Oregon has been a participating and funded state since 2002. Over a three-year period, Oregon Environmental Public Health Tracking planned activities to lay the foundation for establishing a state EPHT Network and program, now known as Oregon Tracking. In 2006, Oregon created and implemented its state network and now serves the needs of a wide range of stakeholders while interfacing with the National EPHT Network. CDC currently funds 25 other states and one city health department, all of which feed into the National Tracking Network.

Why is EPHT important? 

Citizens, public health professionals, students, researchers and policy makers want access to current, relevant, and accurate information about environmental exposures and health outcomes to facilitate individual, community, state, and national decision-making about adopting strategies to reduce the burden of disease attributable to where we live, work, learn and play. Tracking some of this data together allows for a starting-point to ask more questions about environmental hazards and the health problems they may cause in various communities.

What kind of information does the EPHT network and Oregon Tracking contain?

The EPHT network utilizes existing hazard, exposure, and health effect data. New data is added routinely.

Hazards include chemical agents, physical agents, biomechanical stressors, and biologic toxins that can be found in air, water, soil, food, and other environmental media.

Exposure tracking is the monitoring of individuals, communities, or population groups for the presence of an environmental agent or its metabolite. 

Health effects tracking represents traditional public health surveillance efforts. Disease registries, vital statistics data, annual health surveys, and administrative data systems, such as hospital discharge data, are sources that have been used for tracking health conditions.

Oregon Tracking has also collected information about several environmental hazards, exposures and health effects. For a full list, visit our measures and indicators section. Oregon Tracking continues to add information and data to the network based on the needs of stakeholders and available data sources so keep checking back! Some content in the National and State network portals overlap, but you will find some unique data sets with the Oregon Tracking network. 

I would like more information, who should I contact? 

Oregon Tracking is happy to answer any questions. You can contact any of the program staff. Program updates and environmental public health related news is shared routinely through social media pages (Facebook and Twitter) and the program's listserv. Like, tweet, and, or,  join now!

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