Evaluation Process for Adopting New Environmental Public Health Data
In its participation as a member of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's National Tracking Network, the Minnesota Tracking Program creates and maintains environmental public health data topics that are nationally consistent. We also add relevant, state-specific environmental hazards, risks or exposure data that may impact the health of Minnesotans. Data are housed on the Minnesota Public Health Data Access Portal. We use a formal evaluation process to guide development and adoption when considering new state-specific topics. This process of evaluating new data topics provides a systematic and transparent approach to help focus valuable resources on areas that are actionable, feasible and useful for protecting environmental public health.
This evaluation process helps to ensure that valuable Tracking Program resources are used wisely, and aimed at areas that are actionable and that protect public health. The process requires a sound, defensible rationale to support new content areas before they can be adopted.
Developing and updating new content areas for Tracking is resource- and time-intensive. Data and measures are developed and piloted, and then updated and maintained over time. These activities require ongoing dedication of a highly trained, multi-disciplinary team with expertise in epidemiology, data and spatial analysis (GIS), and health risk communication (in addition to web, application and database development and support).
The Tracking Program uses the following process to ensure that new state-specific content areas meet minimum (required) criteria at key decision points. The four phases are:
- Exploration: explore rationale and available datasets
- Feasibility: pilot the data and measures
- Recommendation: final assessment of overall content area
- Implementation: incorporate content area as a continuing Tracking measure
The evaluation process may halt or suspend at any phase, depending on whether criteria for moving ahead are deemed to be met.
Phase 1: Exploration
- Available Resources: are financial and technical resources available?
- Prevalence: is a high proportion of the population exposed to the environmental health hazard OR is there a high estimated prevalence of disease or outcome associated with the hazard?
- Causality: is there evidence that exposure to the environmental hazard(s) is associated with the adverse health outcome(s)?
- Public Health Impact: what is the public health impact of exposure or severity of disease(s)?
- Actionability: can the level of exposure or disease be modified through policy, regulatory, or personal actions? Can these new data and measures be used to develop new initiatives?
- (Initial) Feasibility: does a data source exist to create a Tracking measure?
- Detailed Feasibility: is the data of high quality (e.g. population-based, representative)? Is data collection continuous and timely?
- Pilot the new measures: how would the data source(s) be used to create new Tracking measures?
Phase 2: Feasibility
- Emerging Issues: is the level of exposure or disease changing?
- Information Building: is the prevalence or level of exposure unknown?
- Outside Interest: is there a high level of state and local agency interest?
- Balance: would there be balance among the types of content areas tracked (i.e., hazard vs. disease) and among age groups affected?
- Economic Impact: what is the cost to the Tracking Program and partners (e.g., healthcare systems, industry) of adding this content area?
Phase 3: Recommendation
Phase 4: Implementation
In the final step, MN Tracking Program management decides whether or not to adopt a new content area considering the strength of the rationale gather from phases one through three, input from an inter agency team, and program goals/priorities. If the content area is adopted, program staff develop data and measures, new How-to Guides that act as instructions for analyzing the data, and messaging, to launch on the data portal.