The Role of Environmental Health Data in Improving Community Health

The Role of Environmental Health Data in Improving Community Health

Environmental Health refers to the practice of preventing human harm and promoting well-being by identifying, evaluating, and limiting exposure to hazardous physical, chemical, and biological agents in the air, water, soil, food, and other settings that may adversely affect health. Overall, it explores the interaction between our environment and our health. Whether we see it or not, our environment has a direct impact on our health and well-being. But it entails more than individual wellness, it’s the health of the entire community.

Environmental factors

Outdoor air pollution, unsafe drinking water, contaminated recreational water, mosquitoes/ticks, UV exposure, second-hand smoke, and hazardous substances are just several of the external forces contributing to the environmental health of a community and its residents. Health problems such as heart disease, respiratory diseases, and different forms of cancer can be a result of exposure, especially in individuals who are already considered vulnerable or at-risk.

The impact of environmental factors to a single person seems easy enough to comprehend. But what about the repercussions to an entire community? For example, in regions where air pollution is prevalent or public violence is common, residents are less likely to go outside for recreation or exercise, impacting the health of the community by increasing their risk of disease. Neighborhoods with poorly maintained roads may have an elevated risk of car accidents leading to injury. Sub -par sanitation practices in certain areas can increase the likelihood of illness in that population.

Healthy People 2030, the federal government’s data-driven national objective to improve health and well-being over the next decade, noted that 23% of all deaths (and 26% of deaths among children ages 5 and younger) result from entirely preventable environmental health problems. Cultivating a healthy environment is essential for helping people live longer and improve their quality of life.

Environmental health data and the Voyatek solution

The environmental health of a community is important to not only residents who need to make informed decisions, but also the leaders of the community when developing laws and policies that impact its residents.

At Voyatek, we’ve created a modern digital experience to foster communication between the state, its residents, and key stakeholders. Our Community Analytics Platform (CAP) can be pre-loaded with National Environmental Data from sources like the EPA’s AirNow and EJSCREEN, to equip users with actionable data to effectively tackle the environmental and public health impacts from pollution, climate change, poverty, socioeconomic factors, and other environmental and public health hazards.

When it comes to environmental health, being able to identify which communities are most affected by issues and why, can be an important factor. Having relevant data at their fingertips can help people decide where to establish their place of residency and raise a family. It can also guide government leaders to create laws and policies that reduce pollutants which are causing serious health issues in a particular geographical location.

There are several examples of projects that the state and local government are engaged in where Voyatek technology could help support a launch and rapid expansion. The first is the Chicago Lead Paint Hazard Data Sharing (DASH) where the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) in conjunction with the University of Chicago’s Center for Data Science & Public Policy. Their predictive model to help identify children at risk of lead poisoning collects data from different sectors- public health, census, building, and the county assessor’s office, to help identify where at-risk children live. The goal is to prevent exposure to lead paint through proactive home lead inspections and blood testing at a young age. Housing inspectors can be alerted to inspect the homes of children who are at-risk for lead paint exposure when an application is submitted or when they are notified by physicians at community health centers through electronic health records.

Voyatek technology could also support a data system like the Cleveland Health Home Data Collaborative (CCHDC) that enables physicians, public health officials, and the public to easily access necessary information to address health disparities. They use geocoded housing data from multi-sector sources to identify lead-safe housing, determine a patient’s risk or asthma, target public health programs, and support public policy.

In Greensboro, NC, the Collaborative Cottage Grove’s Community-Centered Health program was created to align health and housing by mapping asthma hospital visits and housing condition data to help identify communities in need of support.  The data collected fosters healthy, resident-led communities by linking families with asthma education and housing assessments through a referral system. This type of data collection and dissemination is another example of how environmental health data can be easily created and supported with Voyatek technology.

Voyatek can provide residents and community leaders with actionable environmental health data to make positive environmental changes that reduce susceptibility to disease and lessen the harmful effects of pollutants on the body, especially for those who are already in vulnerable health. Using data to advance programs and policies that reduce chemical and other environmental exposures in water, air, food, and soil- provides communities with a healthier environment and protects its residents.