Environmental Public Health Tracking (EPHT) – an International Network – Statement of purpose
Monitoring environmental hazards is critical for the prevention of disease. Environmental Public Health Tracking (EPHT) aims to merge, integrate, analyse and interpret environmental hazards, exposure and health data. EPHT can provide timely, accurate and systematic environmental data to public health decision makers on how to reduce the environmental health burden. By effectively linking environmental health data and translating it into meaningful information, EPHT can help protect the health of the public. Thus, EPHT represents the essence of proactive public health practice, since the ultimate goal of such a system is to guide public health action.
The international EPHT network aims to support the development, implementation and evaluation of national EPHT initiatives. The EPHT network provides an international clearinghouse for public health practitioners and researchers on how to monitor environmental hazards, exposure and health data. Moreover, the international EPHT network aims to advance and enhance national EPHT capacity through support of systematic analyses of environmental health data. Specifically, how to:
- Monitor environmental precursors of disease
- Merge, integrate, analyse and interpret environmental hazards, exposure and health data
- Examine relationships between environmental hazards and diseases
- Identify populations at risk from environmental hazards
- Implement and evaluate intervention and prevention strategies
- Inform public health policy makers.
Benefit to public health
An international EPHT network provides a number of benefits to (public) health professionals, policy makers, local, national and international stakeholders, etc. Specifically, an international EPHT network would serve as:
- An established clearinghouse for environmental health data, methods and processes
- A resource with environmental decision support tools for policy and decision makers
- Evidence-based information that can be used to guide public health actions in different settings, such as regional and national health departments
- A resource to increase comparability and cross-border surveillance capacity
- A reference point for public health agencies and scientific organisations.
Examples of international EPHT network activities
- Co-ordination of international research projects on EPHT (e.g. pilot initiatives, databases and their use such as congenital anomalies, housing-related hazards to health, environmental drivers of infectious diseases (E3 Geoportal), etc.)
- Exchange of experiences/expertise, staff, trainees
- Development and exchange of Guidelines )
- Training and education.
- Health departments
- Ministries of health
- International and national public health organisations (public health practitioners, civil servants, etc)
- Non-Governmental Organisations, environmental agencies and related organisations
- Data stewards
- Academic Institutions (researchers, scientists, educators etc.).
Joint Statement 14.02.2014
Balluz, Fletcher, Leonardi, Lauriola, Medina
The origins of INPHET
On occasion of the 25th International Conference of the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology (ISEE), held in Basel, Switzerland, in August 2013, the pre-conference Workshop on Environmental Public Health Tracking: practical methods for priority setting and evaluation raised the interest of many participants, included staff from national or regional institutes of public health or environmental protection, as well as university researchers in epidemiology or other disciplines related to environmental public health.
Delegates from 17 countries took part in the workshop: 8 from Europe: UK, Italy, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Latvia as well as the European Commission; 9 from other continents : USA, India, Japan, South Korea, UAE, Mongolia, Nigeria, Australia and New Zealand.
Participants were interested in the development of an international network for Environmental Public Health Tracking (EPHT) to share best practices and support development of systems and related studies.
The first step towards this goal was the organisation of a workshop in Modena, Italy, on 14-15 may 2014, to share experience and methods, explore solutions, face common challenges and develop strategies for the implementation of the International Network on EPHT (INPHET).
 EPHT can be defined as: “The ongoing collection, integration, analysis, and interpretation of data about environmental hazards, exposure to environmental hazards, human health effects potentially related to exposure to environmental hazards. It includes dissemination of information learned from these data and implementation of strategies and actions to improve and protect public health” (United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2003)