Environmental causes of chronic disease are hard to identify. Chronic disease happens as a combination of a person’s genetics, environment, and life choices. The environment is our air, water, soil, and our surroundings. Measuring amounts of hazardous substances in our environment in a standard way and tracing the spread of these substances over time and area helps us to understand how they may contribute to illness. The Michigan Environmental Public Health Tracking Program, or MiTracking, is a tool that can help connect these efforts.
In 2000, the Pew Environmental Health Commission issued a report that identified a gap in our knowledge about how environmental contaminants contribute to the national chronic disease burden. There was no system to collect the information needed to document links between environmental hazards and chronic diseases. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Environmental Public Health Tracking Network is designed to fill that gap. Currently, the CDC funds 26 state and local health departments to build and maintain local tracking networks. Bringing together information on environmental hazards, exposures, and health outcomes helps us understand the complicated relationship between the environment and health.
Michigan Environmental Public Health Tracking (MiTracking)
MiTracking is part of the CDC’s National Environmental Public Health Tracking Network. It is a web-based system that provides health, population, and environmental data, information, and the tools necessary to help us better understand how the environment can impact human health. MiTracking makes data on Michigan-specific environmental hazards, human exposure to these hazards, and health effects easier to find and use. Data are available on:
- Health conditions and diseases such as asthma and cancer
- Environmental substances such as carbon monoxide, lead, and air pollution
- Population demographics including age, gender, and race
- Community data on age of housing
MiTracking is an important tool in environmental public health. It can be used to:
- Explore Michigan-specific health and environmental data by topic, geographic area, and year
- Explore connections among environmental hazards and health outcomes
- Create custom tables, charts, and maps
- View trends in data over time
- Provide data for studies and investigations
- Answer questions about environmental hazards, exposures, or health conditions
- Develop or assess public health programs and policies
- Find links to national and state resources
Data on these topics are currently available:
- Age of housing
- Air quality
- Birth Defects
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
- Childhood cancer
- Childhood lead exposure
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
- Drinking water
- Heart attack
- Heat illness
- Population demographics
- Reproductive and birth outcomes
- Work-related injuries and illnesses
Data and information on other health, population, and environmental topics will continue to be added.
It is important to note that these data alone cannot determine all the factors that play a part in chronic disease or health conditions. The exact cause of chronic diseases and health conditions cannot be determined by these data, and may never be known.
While there are many ways to define environmental health, for the purposes of this website, environmental health means how the environment might affect a person’s health and how people might affect the health of the environment.
Epidemiology and Environmental Health
Epidemiology is the study of the causes of diseases and trends over time in groups of people. [FJ(1] MiTracking is one of the tools used to examine disease trends in environmental public health. We can look at environmental hazards, potential exposures, and health conditions in certain groups of people and by where they live. We can measure some health problems by identifying the number of people who have a particular disease or illness.
We can also measure or estimate whether a number of people may have come in contact with an environmental hazard such as lead-based paint in homes, or disinfectant byproducts in water. We can also study the same kinds of diseases or illnesses in people who have not come in contact with an environmental hazard to see if the numbers are different or the same.
MiTracking also contributes Michigan health, environment, and population data to the CDC’s National Environmental Public Health Tracking Network.
Privacy and Confidentiality
No data that can be used to identify an individual are provided by MiTracking or shared with the CDC’s Tracking program. State and federal laws that protect health data shape the information that is available on MiTracking and the National Tracking Network. We follow all of the laws and policies that protect the privacy of health records and other personal information.
[FJ(1]CDC definition: Epidemiology is the method used to find the causes of health outcomes and diseases in populations