Profession

New Web tool helps study of environmental factors and disease

Prevention of chronic illnesses is the goal of a new tracking network created by the CDC.

By Susan J. Landers — Posted July 31, 2009

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention launched a Web-based surveillance tool on July 7 that gathers environmental information and certain chronic health conditions in one resource.

The Environmental Public Health Tracking Network provides information on air and water pollutants, as well as asthma, cancer, childhood lead poisoning and heart disease for 16 states and New York City (link).

The CDC intends to expand the network to all 50 states.

Although scientists understand that exposures to air particle pollution and lead contribute to illnesses, many environmental and health connections remain unproven. The Web tool will help scientists find solutions by bringing together health and environmental data.

"The tracking network is the foundation we need to make better environmental health decisions and help prevent chronic illnesses such as asthma, cancer and heart disease," Michael McGeehin, PhD, MSPH, director of the CDC's Division of Environmental Hazard and Health Effects, said in a statement.

Physicians can benefit from the network in several ways, said Judy Qualters, PhD, chief of the CDC's Environmental Health Tracking Branch. For example, they can access general CDC information on asthma and link to other sites, such as the American Lung Assn. They also can find information on ozone and particulate matter that could prompt doctors to warn patients with asthma about taking precautions when air quality is poor, she said.

The 16 states and one city that have data posted on the Web site are: California, Connecticut, Florida, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin and New York City.

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