mental protection, and describes the critical role of environmental health tracking in bridging the common goals of these disparate worlds.
Environmental health tracking provides a framework for identifying and monitoring sources of harmful pollutants, measuring population exposures, and assessing key health indicators in the population. Results from the work of the Pew Environmental Health Commission are presented, including findings regarding key measures of health and environment. This work has provided support for current legislative efforts to establish a national tracking network. Additional approaches to the development of health and environment indicators for tracking also are examined. Contemporary issues including mercury exposure, brownfields’ redevelopment, and recent terrorist events are examined to illustrate the role of tracking in addressing critical environmental health issues.
The horrible events of September 2001 have brought an unprecedented awareness of the need for a strong public health capacity, as well as unprecedented investment in the public health infrastructure. We now have a responsibility to build on this investment and an opportunity to apply new approaches to evaluating hazards, strengthening the scientific basis for policy, and preventing disease. Building upon the improved national capacity for disease surveillance and public health preparedness, environmental health tracking can provide essential support for our environmental protection efforts, while improving our understanding of the relationship between the environment and health.
Baruch Fischhoff and Henry Willis
One of the challenges of environmental health monitoring is that these data will be used at a number of levels—local, state, national, and international. Creating databases and summaries that will be usable and meaningful to the diverse intended audience will require careful thought and advance planning. As the plan for a national monitoring system moves forward, one can use a social and behavioral science perspective to present the information in a way that is consistent with the underlying science of physiology and environment.
The National Academies and others have published a number of reports on risk delineating subjectivity of scientific risk estimates, which