State Health Department Launches Powerful Environmental Public Health Resource

State Health
Department Launches Powerful Environmental Public Health
Resource

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services has
launched its Environmental Public Health Tracking Network Portal, a powerful new
tool that Missourians can use to protect themselves from environmental hazards
statewide.

The portal is a cutting-edge public health resource and part
of a national initiative to close gaps in what we know about how environmental
hazards affect public health.

Designed as a web-based system, the portal tracks key
environmental hazards and health problems across Missouri then displays that
information in ways that people can use to limit their exposure to environmental
hazards. Because key elements of the system are open for public use, the portal
will help to improve Missourians’ understanding of government actions to reduce
or prevent some illnesses, such as lead poisoning or asthma.

“We truly are excited to launch this unique and powerful tool
and are confident it will help us in our mission to protect the health and
well-being of everyone in Missouri,” said Margaret Donnelly, director of the
Department of Health and Senior Services. “We hope that in developing a tool
that the public can use, we can foster a better understanding of the importance
of public health in everyone’s life.”

Donnelly said the portal will allow Missouri residents to
obtain critical environmental health information that will help them make
informed decisions and take action to protect themselves and their families. The
portal currently provides:

  • Rates of blood lead levels
    in children less than six years of age by county, zip code, calendar year, or
    blood-lead test results;
  • Rates of carbon monoxide
    illnesses by county, zip code, calendar year, or test result;
  • Interactive maps showing
    environmental health conditions such as childhood lead poisoning and carbon
    monoxide illnesses. The maps allow users to ask questions and receive
    information about specific locations on the map.

Missouri is one of 16 states to receive funding from the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to build state tracking network
portals. The funding also allows the state to conduct pilot projects that
analyze the health effects of environmental hazards. The goal is to improve what
we know about the environment’s effect on public health.

“The tracking portal will be home to the most recent,
accurate environmental public health data available, which allows us to maintain
a higher level of awareness of environmental issues across the state,” Donnelly
said. “Because of its Web-based platform, we can share information
simultaneously with our partners, which will help reduce the time it takes local
and state public health officials to respond to emerging environmental health
hazards or developing disease trends.”

Results from Missouri’s pilot projects demonstrate the
benefits of environmental public health tracking.  For example, 95 percent of
homes in the city of St. Louis were built prior to 1978, when lead was banned
from paint.  Consequently, the demolition of these older homes for new
construction raised the concern of environmental lead contamination and
increased exposure for children living near demolition sites. 

In response, Missouri’s environmental health tracking staff
worked with St. Louis city officials to study blood lead levels of children
living near these demolition sites. The tracking study showed that children
living near multiple demolition sites were at an increased risk for elevated
blood-lead levels. Based on that study, the city developed new safety procedures
for demolition projects involving old homes and buildings.  The tracking study
has been instrumental in reducing the number of St. Louis children affected by
environmental lead exposure.

Nationally, the CDC recently announced the launch of its
National Environmental Public Health Tracking Network Portal at the federal
agency’s “Future of Environmental Health” conference. CDC’s Tracking Network
Portal makes available a national body of environment and health information for
the first time.  It monitors and reports national environmental health trends
about air and water quality, and health conditions such as asthma, cancers and
birth defects.   

For more information, please visit http://www.dhss.mo.gov/EPHT/  or www.cdc.gov/ephtracking. To enter the
Missouri health tracking portal, go to http://www.dhss.mo.gov/EPHTN_Data_Portal/.

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