Who we are: Minnesota Environmental Public Health Tracking
The environment – our air, water, food, homes, workplaces and communities – as well as the social and economic conditions where we live, work and play are important to our health. The Minnesota Environmental Public Health Tracking Program (MN Tracking) literally keeps track of the many parts of environment that can influence health.
Informing public health action through data and expertise
Data are shared with citizens, communities, policymakers, and health officials, who then use the data to inform actions that protect health in Minnesota communities.
Members of the Environmental Health Tracking and Biomonitoring Advisory Panel, representing key stakeholder groups with a background and expertise in public health or related sciences, provide important guidance to the Commissioner of Health on program decisions, including selection of chemicals and communities for biomonitoring, as well as data and analyses for environmental public health tracking. These decisions are conducted in coordination with the Minnesota Biomonitoring Program.
Connecting the environment, exposures and health
The Environmental Public Health Tracking Program (MN Tracking) uses existing data – gathered by disease surveillance, population surveys, and environmental monitoring programs – to better understand connections between community health and physical, chemical and social environments. Our team:
- Conducts ongoing surveillance to identify vulnerable populations and areas and provide evidence for public health decision-making, evaluation, and planning.
- Responds to emerging environmental health concerns with focused investigations and analyses.
- Works with partners across MDH and other state agencies; local public health departments; and education, non-governmental and community stakeholders on health promotion strategies and data utilization.
At MDH, Minnesota Tracking Program is led by staff in the Environmental Epidemiology Unit. Minnesota Tracking brings together data from environmental monitoring, biomonitoring in people, and disease surveillance, and analyzes it for geographic patterns, trends over time, and associations.
Minnesota Tracking also maintains the Minnesota Public Health Data Access portal which makes data on health and the environment publicly available and easy to access online.
Tracking hazards, exposure and health
Minnesota environmental public health data fall into four general categories:
- Environmental hazards include chemical pollutants in the air, water, food, products and homes; extreme weather; radiation and traffic.
- Exposures are chemicals from the environment found in people's bodies.
- Health effects, meaning diseases and conditions in the population like asthma, cancer, or poisonings that result from exposure to those hazards.
- Population characteristics include poverty, tobacco use, health care access and other social/economic factors that are important determinants of health.
Consulting, investigating and requesting data
Specialized data analyses, reports and consultations are conducted in response to public health concerns. Custom data requests will be answered and filled, with priority given to requesters from the Minnesota Department of Health, the Minnesota Legislature, other state agencies, community health service agencies and public media.
Minnesota is Part of the National Environmental Tracking Network
In 2002, the CDC established the National Environmental Public Health Tracking Network to build a sustainable national environmental surveillance (tracking) system and bridge the gap between public health and the environment.
Currently, the CDC maintains the National Tracking Network, which integrates nationwide health and environment data, and funds a cooperative agreement between 26 states, including Minnesota, to maintain local environmental public health tracking networks.