Vermont Awarded $2.8 Million Federal Grant to Track Environmental Health Hazards

For Immediate Release:  Dec. 17, 2009
Media Contact: Communication Office
Vermont Department of Health
802-863-7281

BURLINGTON – The Vermont Department of Health has been awarded more than $575,000 per year for five years by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) to strengthen the state’s ability to protect residents from environmental hazards.

The grant will build the capacity for the Departments of Health and Environmental Conservation to link environmental exposures with health outcomes. While scientists know exposures such as radon and lead contribute to illnesses, many environmental and health connections remain unproven since detailed health and environmental data were not integrated into a single web-based network. 

“Environmental exposures can result in slow-developing, complex chronic diseases such as asthma or cancer,” said Health Commissioner Wendy Davis, MD. “These tracking data will improve our ability to protect the health of all Vermonters because it will help identify threats and reduce the amount of time it takes local and state health officials to respond.”

The network will allow health professionals, scientists, policymakers and other Vermonters to better understand where environmental hazards and illness are occurring.  For example, tracking data will be used to further understand asthma, one of the most common chronic diseases among children. 

According to the 2008 Asthma Plan, certain regions of Vermont have higher rates of hospitalization due to asthma than others. Tracking data will be used to identify trends and patterns in the occurrence of asthma. Differences between geographic areas may be the result of environmental exposures, such as particulate or ozone pollution; differences in characteristics of the underlying population; or variations in the diagnostic techniques used by hospitals.

By comparing these data with the incidence of asthma hospitalizations, or emergency room visits, the Health Department will be able to identify trends in age groups, time periods and geographic areas.  Results could lead to better prevention strategies and policy changes.

The grant was awarded to Vermont as part of a national CDC initiative to improve access to environmental health information so that communities and families understand hazards and can make informed decisions about how to protect their health.

Vermont is one of only 22 states to be awarded an Environmental Public Health Tracking Network grant.

For more information on the grants visit: www.cdc.gov/ephtracking

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