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Integrating research, surveillance, and practice in environmental public health tracking.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is working with selected state and local health departments, academic centers, and others to develop an environmental public health tracking initiative to improve geographic and temporal surveillance of environmental hazards, exposures, and related health outcomes. The objective is to support policy strategies and interventions for disease prevention by communities and environmental health agencies at the federal, state, and local levels. The first 3 years of the initiative focused on supporting states and cities in developing capacity, information technology infrastructure, and pilot projects to demonstrate electronic linkage of environmental hazard or exposure data and disease data. The next phase requires implementation across states. This transition could provide opportunities to further integrate research, surveillance, and practice through attention to four areas. The first is to develop a shared and transparent knowledge base that draws on environmental health research and substantiates decisions about what to track and the interpretation of results. The second is to identify and address information needs of policy and stakeholder audiences in environmental health. The third is to adopt mechanisms for coordination, decision making, and governance that can incorporate and support the major entities involved. The fourth is to promote disease prevention by systematically identifying and addressing population-level environmental determinants of health and disease.

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