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Dec 21 -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) invites comments by February 21, 2023 regarding the extension of the Environmental Public Health Tracking Network.

In September 2000, the Pew Environmental Health Commission issued a report entitled America's Environmental Health Gap: Why the Country Needs a Nationwide Health Tracking Network. The Commission documented a critical gap in knowledge that hinders our national efforts to reduce or eliminate diseases that might be prevented by better managing environmental factors due largely to the fact that existing environmental health systems were inadequate and fragmented. They described a lack of data for the leading causes of mortality and morbidity, a lack of data on exposure to hazards, a lack of environmental data with applicability to public health, and barriers to integrating and linking existing data. To address this critical gap, the Commission recommended a “Nationwide Health Tracking Network” for disease and exposures. In response to the report and this critical gap, Congress appropriated funds in the fiscal year 2002 budget for the CDC to establish the National Environmental Public Health Tracking Program (Tracking Program) and Network and has appropriated funds each year thereafter to continue this effort.

The Tracking Program includes State and Local Health Departments (SLHD) which collaborate to: (1) build and maintain the Tracking Network; (2) advance the practice and science of environmental public health tracking; (3) communicate information to guide environmental health policies and actions; (4) enhance tracking workforce and infrastructure; and (5) foster collaborations between health and environmental programs. In spring of 2022, under Notice of Funding Opportunity CDC-RFA-EH22-2202, the CDC's Tracking Program funded 33 state and local public health programs (funded SLHDs). These recipients were selected through a competitive objective review process and are managed as CDC cooperative agreements. Awards are for five years and are renewed through an Annual Performance Report (APR)/Continuation Application. The Tracking Program collects data from recipients about their activities and progress for the purposes of program evaluation and monitoring (hereafter referenced as program data).

Environmental public health tracking is the ongoing collection, integration, analysis, and dissemination of health, exposure, and hazard data (hereinafter referenced as Tracking Network data) to inform public health actions that protect the population from harm resulting from exposure to environmental contaminants. The Tracking Network provides data from existing health, exposure, and hazard surveillance systems and supports ongoing efforts within the public health and environmental sectors to improve data collection, accessibility, and dissemination as well as analytic and response capacity. Data that were previously collected for different purposes and stored in separate state and local systems are now available in a nationally standardized format allowing programs to begin bridging the gap between health and the environment.

Data from state and local health departments will be integrated into the Tracking Network to facilitate development of hypotheses surrounding our understanding of the potential associations between health and the environment and to inform state and local public health actions for mitigating the impact of environmental risk factors on health. Analyses include, but are not limited to, (1) describing temporal and spatial trends in disease and potential environmental exposures, (2) identifying populations most affected, (3) generating hypotheses about associations between health and environmental exposures. In some cases, data may be used to inform environmental public health policies and interventions for state and local health departments.

CDC is requesting approval for an increase of seven additional annual respondents from the 30 approved under the previous ICR and five-year NOFO (CDC-RFA-EH17-1702). In spring of 2022, under the new five-year NOFO (CDC-RFA-EH22-2202), the CDC's Tracking Program funded 33 state and local public health programs (funded SLHD). CDC is now requesting approval for up to 37 annual respondents. This number reflects the current 33 SLHD respondents plus four to allow for future funding of new SLHD or to collect voluntary responses from unfunded SLHD.

Data from recipients or other SLHD are submitted annually following standardized procedures. Tracking network data submitted annually by recipients and other SLHD to the Tracking Program include seven datasets and the metadata form, specifically: (1) birth defects prevalence; (2) childhood blood lead levels; (3) drinking water monitoring; (4) emergency department visits; (5) hospitalizations; (6) radon testing; (7) biomonitoring; and (8) metadata. The Tracking Program will begin using Research Electronic Data Capture (REDCap) for its Electronic Data Capture System (EDCS) needs, which is an easy-to-use, free software tool useful for programmatic deliverable management and data capture. Using an EDCS significantly reduces the burden by optimizing the data capture method to eliminate the need for personnel to complete manual data cleaning and organization before using data for analysis and evaluation upon submission.
 
National Environmental Public Health Tracking Network: https://ephtracking.cdc.gov/
Draft information collection instruments and technical documentation: https://www.dropbox.com/scl/fo/vnbjx75clbp7ld0nzqpqy/h?dl=0&rlkey=02j5t11knwcf0tg9qr7b5vp4m
FRN: https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2022-27507

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