The United States (US) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Environmental Public Health Tracking Network was initiated in 2002, and is approaching a twenty year milestone. The CDC launched its dynamic network of web-based data and information in 2009. The State of Louisiana’s timeline for environmental public health tracking began concurrently with legislation in 2003 requiring the state to develop an environmental health surveillance system to track physical, chemical and social factors that may play a role in the development of chronic diseases affecting the citizens (Louisiana Act 666). The Louisiana Department of Health (LDH), Office of Public Health (OPH) has been the recipient of the CDC Tracking Program Cooperative Agreement since 2009. Continued program funding has enabled Louisiana to build environmental health capacity and to develop the resources and tools necessary to fully support a tracking network. Currently the program supports over five full-time Environmental Health Scientists and Epidemiologists, with the partial support of a Health Educator, a Portal Development Contractor and several smaller contracts. These provide advanced geographic information systems and statistical analyses to supplement project work, assisting the program towards increased health activities and intervention.
The purpose of the Cooperative Agreement is for the Section of Environmental Epidemiology & Toxicology to advance the science of environmental health, in partnership and with the support of the larger health agency, data stewards, partners and the CDC National Tracking Program. Evidence-based findings supporting the environmental associations and contributors to health outcomes in the state and nationally, are met with health activities and interventions which can directly impact and improve health outcomes, reducing environmental and related health effects and environmental health disparities. LDH Tracking administers a statewide environmental health surveillance network through the mechanism of CDC’s National Network. The program currently makes health, environmental hazard, population and exposure data and information available to the CDC Network, grantee states and cities, as well as to Louisiana communities, scientists, health officials and decision makers as a fully integrated, central data and information hub within our jurisdiction. Built in partnership with OPH Bureau of Health Informatics, in close collaboration and partnership with data stewards and other internal and external partners, the state program hosts a website, and provides information, searchable and downloadable data and data visualization through charts, maps, statistics and reports utilizing an online query system and portal, or Data Explorer.
Louisiana’s state tracking program seeks to continue this valuable ongoing work, partnering to improve community and national health through better science. Through CDC-RFA-EH22-2202, ‘Modernizing Environmental Public Health Tracking to Advance Environmental Health Surveillance,’ the program will utilize its existing program capacity, surveillance, information technology, partnerships, outreach and communications knowledge, skills and expertise built over several decades to achieve improved health outcomes. The following application outlines LDH’s Tracking Program proposed projects via three components of capacity building, emerging topics, and portal development and sustainability.