Frequently Asked Questions: MN Environmental Public Health Tracking - Minnesota Dept. of Health

Frequently Asked Questions

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Also see: Frequently Asked Questions about Biomonitoring.

What is environmental public health tracking?

Environmental public health tracking (EPHT) is the ongoing collection, integration, analysis, and interpretation of data about environmental hazards, people's exposures to hazards, and population health.

The MN Tracking Program at MDH works in collaboration with state and federal partners, including the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to conduct tracking activities. MDH receives funding under cooperative agreement with the CDC, as well as funding provided by the Minnesota Legislature for tracking and biomonitoring (Minnesota Statutes).

A primary goal of the MN Tracking Program is to make hazard, exposure, and health data accessible to the public to inform policy and action, and ultimately to protect public health (see Data and Measures).

What data do we track?

Data collected by the MN Tracking Program comes from many different sources, including the Minnesota Department of Health and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

graphic of hazard, exposure, and health These data fall into three general categories:

  • Hazard: chemical or biological hazards measured in the environment (e.g., ambient air and drinking water)
  • Exposure: chemicals or metabolites measured in body fluid or tissues (e.g., lead in blood)
  • Health effects: measures of specific health conditions (e.g., asthma, cancer, carbon monoxide poisoning, heart attacks, reproductive outcomes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)

The Tracking Program makes these data available on the Minnesota Public Health Data Access and in a series of data reports (see Publications & Presentations).

The Tracking Program is evaluating additional data sets on an ongoing basis, to evaluate their usefulness for EPHT. Example data sets include: radon, pesticides, environmental tobacco smoke, and private wells.

How are our data used?

The Tracking Program's data comes from various sources and are used to:

  • Inform policies to protect public health
  • Recognize geographic patterns & trends over time
  • Determine opportunities for research

See Seminars & Tracking in Action for examples of how tracking data may be used.

Primary users of these data include local public health professionals in Minnesota. Other potential data users include local and state agencies, researchers, non-profit organizations, and the public.

Potential applications of tracking data will increase as new data and measures are developed, and as new data analysis features become available.

picture showing sources of data and their potential uses for environmental public health tracking

Where do our data come from?

Tracking data come from several different sources, including programs at the Minnesota Department of Health and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Pesticide data also are being developed and evaluated in collaboration with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

The success of the Tracking Program and the National Tracking Network depends on strong partnerships and collaboration with local, state and federal agencies, including the CDC.

What evaluation process does the Tracking Program follow to adopt new content areas?

The Tracking Program uses a hierarchical evaluation process to guide development and adoption of new state-specific content areas for Tracking. This process provides a systematic and transparent approach to help focus valuable Tracking resources on areas that are actionable, feasible, and useful for protecting public health. The Tracking Program uses this process to develop Tracking content areas that focus on measures of environmental health hazards, people’s exposure to hazards, and health effects or diseases. For more information, see Evaluation Process for Adopting New Content Areas.

What MN Statutes pertain to tracking and biomonitoring?

In 2007 the Minnesota Legislature passed the MN Statutes 144.995-144.998 related to tracking and biomonitoring.

What is the National Tracking Program?

The National Environmental Public Health Tracking Program at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) collects, analyzes, interprets, and disseminates data on hazards, exposures, and health. This program maintains cooperative agreements with over 22 states and New York City (map) to support tracking activities at the federal, state, and local levels.

In 2009 Minnesota received a 5-year cooperative agreement from CDC. Minnesota is now part of the National EPHT Network.

How can I find more information?

For more information about the Tracking Program.

Updated Friday, April 10, 2015 at 09:55AM