Disease Monitoring and Tracking Network
LINKS | TRACKING
IN TEXAS | WHAT
IS A TRACKING NETWORK? |
WHAT IS WRONG? | TEXAS'
EFFECTIVE STEPS | WHAT
HEALTH PROVIDERS WANT | THE
INVESTMENT | COMMUNITY
SUPPORT | INVOLVE
Chronic Disease and Monitoring Environmental Exposures in
we as a nation do not have a system that can document possible
links between environmental hazards and chronic diseases
the same way that we identify and track infectious disease.
Only with comprehensive incidence and prevalence data along
with chemical exposure data can associations between health
and the environment be documented effectively. Monitoring
populations known to be at risk for environmental exposures
would help to assure early diagnosis, appropriate treatment,
and useful patient education. A reliable tracking system
would provide health care professionals and public health
officials with solid research, resulting in better diagnoses
and faster response time to isolated outbreaks.
Is A National Disease Monitoring and Tracking Network?
Pew Environmental Health Commission released a report in
September 2000 calling for a nationwide disease monitoring
and tracking network. The network would facilitate the work
of public health departments in identifying chronic disease
clusters and enable physicians to have a greater impact
on their patients’ health. The national Network would consist
of two major components:
Disease Tracking – A network of local, state, and federal
public health agencies in all 50 states would join together
to track the incidence and prevalence of certain chronic
diseases. The national Network would link existing state
registries and national databases like the National
Hospital Discharge Survey, the National Ambulatory Medical
Care Survey and the National Health Interview Survey
to develop a complete picture of chronic disease in
this country and identify environmental health gaps.
– The Network would build on the population-based National
Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and
increase the number of chemicals in the human body that
CDC monitors. This expansion of NHANES would enable
public health officials to accurately identify exposures
that have occurred and gain an understanding of whether
the exposures have an impact on health. This expanded
monitoring would improve NHANES’s ability to track exposures
at the state and regional levels as well as nationally.
Is The Problem?
date there is still no comprehensive system that enables
public health officials to explore the connections between
chronic diseases and conditions and environmental exposures
and hazards. The tracking programs that do exist at the
state and local level are inconsistent because there are
no agreed-upon minimum standards or requirements for environmental
health tracking. In addition, much of the data collected
are never analyzed or interpreted in a way that could identify
targets for further action. However,
nationwide survey indicates that the general public
believes that tracking chronic disease already occurs
and that physicians already have information about environmental
exposures and their links to human health.
focus groups throughout the nation, physicians also
stated that they believed chronic disease tracking already
occurs, at least statewide, and that existing government
programs are tracking environmental exposures in an
extensive and useful manner.
Has Texas Taken A First Step Toward Effective Monitoring And
defects are the leading cause of infant mortality in the
United States. Approximately 6,500 deaths annually and an
average of 150,000 babies are born every year with some
type of birth defect. In Texas alone, about 10,000 babies
are born with one or more major structural malformations
every year. Birth defects are the 2nd leading cause of death
among infants in Texas and the 7th leading cause of premature
death among all Texans.
is one of the few states that has attempted to understand
this growing chronic condition. After officials noticed
an unexpected cluster of babies born with anencephaly, a
fatal neural tube disorder characterized by an underdeveloped
brain and incomplete formation of the skull, a birth defects
registry was created on the southeast Texas/Mexico border.
Since then Texas has been able to track birth defects cases
and identify the frequency of different types of birth defects.
even with a birth defects registry, health officials are
stalled in establishing strong education and prevention
plans that address potential environmental hazards and links
to birth defects. The registry, inconsistent among jurisdictions
throughout the state, provides no mechanism to compare data
regionally in Texas or nationally from state to state. The
current registry system can track the incidence and prevalence
of birth defects in Texas, but health officials cannot compare
it to exposure data to determine, for example, whether mothers
with higher levels of certain chemicals in their bodies
are more likely to have an infant with a birth defect. We
can only obtain this information with a comprehensive monitoring
and tracking network based on sound data.
Do Health Care Providers Want?
groups with physicians and health care providers in Texas
revealed the need for a better monitoring and tracking system
for chronic disease and the demand for sound science linking
environmental exposures to human health. Health care professionals
expect a tracking system that will:
reliable and consistent information;
an unbiased body of resources that are unaffected by
external forces like special interest groups or industry
focused research, and;
useful and accessible feedback that will be beneficial
to health care providers as well as patients.
Will It Take to Invest In Our Public Health’s Future?
national cost of chronic disease is staggering: Chronic
disease contributes to 4 of every 5 deaths annually and
$325 billion in annual health care and lost productivity.
The benefits of a chronic disease tracking and exposure-monitoring
network far outweigh the costs that are associated with
chronic disease care. The cost of this national Network
is $275 million annually: less than 0.1% of health care
costs related to chronic disease.
Medical And Public Health Communities Support A National Disease
Monitoring and Tracking Network
than 30 health and environmental organizations support the
Nationwide Health Tracking Network. They include: American
Academy of Pediatrics, American Public Health Association,
American Lung Association, American Cancer Society, Inc.,
Association of Public Health Laboratories, March of Dimes
Birth Defects Foundation, Asthma and Allergy Foundation
of America, Association of State and Territorial Health
Officials, Natural Resources Defense Council, U.S. Public
Interest Research Group, and state groups like the Connecticut
State Medical Society.
Can Health Care Providers Become Involved?
For more information about the National Disease Monitoring
and Tracking Network, please contact the Physicians for
Social Responsibility at (202) 667-4260, x223 or Email: