About the MN Tracking Program
The Minnesota Environmental Public Health Tracking Program (MN Tracking Program) collects and analyzes data about environmental hazards, people's exposures to them, and the health of the population. The MN Tracking Program makes these data accessible to the public through the MN Public Health Data Access portal.
Tracking hazards, exposure, and health
The environment plays an important role in our health. Chemicals in the ground, air, and water, things like hot weather, secondhand smoke, and even poverty are part of the physical, chemical, and social environment that we live in. The MN Tracking Program continues to add new data sets and explore new possible connections between the environment and people's health.
The MN Tracking Program tracks data that fall into three general categories:
- Hazards include chemicals in the air, ground, and water; weather; and characteristics of our physical and social environment
- Exposures are chemicals from the environment found in people's bodies
- Health effects are diseases and conditions like asthma, cancer, or heart attacks that might result from exposure to those hazards.
Using data to protect communities and improve health
Local public health professionals, state and local agencies, researchers, non-profit organizations, and individuals use Tracking Data to:
- Recognize health and exposure patterns in certain places, and trends over time;
- Identify health disparities and vulnerable populations on which to focus limited resources;
- Inform policies to protect public health;
- Evaluate how effective current policies are; and
- Determine new opportunities for research.
Part of a National Tracking Program
For many years, no system existed at the state or national level to track many of the exposures and health effects that might be related to environmental hazards. In 2002, the CDC established the National Environmental Public Health Tracking Program to build a sustainable national data tracking network and bridge the gap between public health and the environment. Currently, the CDC maintains the National Tracking Network, which integrates health and environment data from 23 states, including Minnesota, and New York City (map).
Using data from many sources
The success of the MN Tracking Program, and the National Tracking Network, depends on strong partnerships and collaboration with local, state and federal agencies - as well as engaged communities and individuals who are empowered to take action to protect health. The data that the Tracking Program uses comes 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.
Carefully evaluating new data topics
The Tracking Program uses a hierarchical evaluation process to guide the development and adoption of new state-specific data topics. For more information, see Evaluation Process for Adopting New Content Areas.In addition, the Tracking Network is working with the CDC to promote data use through a set of new national projects. Examples include the development of data for arsenic in private wells, new community profiles with multiple indicators by geography, and evaluating the economic burden of environmental disease in children (like asthma and lead poisoning). These projects will be finished in 2014.