Data to Action: Using Environmental Public Health Tracking to Inform Decision Making
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Data to Action: Using Environmental Public Health Tracking to Inform Decision Making
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  • Alternative Title:
    J Public Health Manag Pract
  • Description:
    Context Public health surveillance includes dissemination of data and information to those who need it to take action to prevent or control disease. The concept of data to action is explicit in the mission of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Environmental Public Health Tracking Program (Tracking Program). CDC has built a National Environmental Public Health Tracking Network (Tracking Network) to integrate health and environmental data to drive public health action (PHA) to improve communities’ health. Objective To assess the utility of the Tracking Program and its Network in environmental public health practice and policy-making. Design We analyzed information on how Tracking has been used to drive PHAs within funded states and cities (grantees). Two case studies illustrate such use. Setting Analyses included all grantees funded between 2005 and 2013. Participants The number of grantees varied from 17 for 2006–2008 to 24 for 2010–2013. Main Outcome Measures We categorized each PHA reported to determine how grantees became involved, their role, the problems addressed, and the overall action. Results Tracking grantees reported 178 PHAs from 2006–2013. The most common overall action was “provided information in response to concern” (n=42) followed by “improved a public health program, intervention, or response plan” (n=35). Tracking’s role was most often to enhance surveillance (24%) or to analyze data (23%). In 47% of PHAs, the underlying problem was a concern about possible elevated rates of a health outcome, a potential exposure, or a potential association between a hazard and health. PHAs were started by a request for assistance (48%), in response to an emergency (8%), and though routine work by Tracking programs (43%). Conclusion Our review shows that the data, expertise, technical infrastructure, and other resources of the Tracking Program and its Network are driving state and local PHAs.
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