One of the best things about working at the Towson University Center for GIS is getting to delve into a variety of different subject areas. Currently, we’re excited to be working with our IT Services team on a redevelopment of the Maryland Department of Health’s Environmental Public Health Tracking (EPHT) portal.

What is environmental public health?

Environmental public health focuses on health issues as related to environmental hazards. Popular topics in public health examine childhood exposure to lead in the home, the relationship between asthma and air quality, and how climate change is contributing to increases in hospitalizations related to heat stress.

What is the EPHT portal?

The Environmental Public Health Tracking portal brings health information together with environmental and demographic data to help people investigate and understand issues in their community and help decision-makers disseminate information, evaluate policies, and examine public health trends.

The redevelopment of EPHT focuses on displays related to three themes:

  • Status and trends of health and environmental topics, such as maps and trends over time graphs for Maryland jurisdictions showing rates of emergency department visits for asthma, cases of elevated of blood lead in children, and trends related to air quality.
  • Driving factors for health and environmental topics. These include environmental conditions, such as sources of air pollution, increases in the frequency of hot days as related to cases of heat stress, and housing age as related to lead exposure in children. This also includes examining racial and sociodemographic disparities in health outcomes and exposure to environmental hazards.
  • Programs and resources related to health and environmental topics, connecting citizens to additional help such as intervention programs, testing, and other sources of information.

In addition to data displays, the EPHT portal is a source for downloading health and environmental data. As a GIS practitioner, I’m excited to be a part of an effort to make data available for use in mapping and analysis. Some of this data will include CDC Nationally Consistent Data Measures (NCDMs) for comparison of health outcomes and trends across states.