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Functions of Environmental Epidemiology and Surveillance in State Health Departments

Stanbury, Martha MSPH; Anderson, Henry MD; Blackmore, Carina MS, Vet Med, PhD; Fagliano, Jerald PhD, MPH; Heumann, Michael MPH; Kass, Daniel MSPH; McGeehin, Michael PhD, MSPH

Journal of Public Health Management and Practice: September/October 2012 - Volume 18 - Issue 5 - p 453–460
doi: 10.1097/PHH.0b013e31822d4c01
Original Articles

Public health surveillance and epidemiology are the foundations for disease prevention because they provide the factual basis from which agencies can set priorities, plan programs, and take actions to protect the public's health. Surveillance for noninfectious diseases associated with exposure to agents in the environment like lead and pesticides has been a function of state health departments for more than 3 decades, but many state programs do not have adequate funding or staff for this function. Following the efforts to identify core public health epidemiology functions in chronic diseases, injury, and occupational health and safety, a workgroup of public health environmental epidemiologists operating within the organizational structure of the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists has defined the essential core functions of noninfectious disease environmental epidemiology that should be present in every state health department and additional functions of a comprehensive program. These functions are described in terms of the “10 Essential Environmental Public Health Services” and their associated performance standards. Application of these consensus core and expanded functions should help state and large metropolitan health departments allocate resources and prioritize activities of their environmental epidemiologists, thus improving the delivery of environmental health services to the public.

This study shows that a major achievement in public health has been the control of infectious diseases by vigilant public health surveillance coupled with environmental interventions.

Division of Environmental Health, Michigan Department of Community Health, Lansing (Ms Stanbury); Wisconsin Division of Public Health, Department of Health Services, Madison (Dr Anderson); Bureau of Environmental Public Health Medicine, Florida Department of Health, Tallahassee (Dr Blackmore); Environmental and Occupational Health Surveillance, New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, Trenton (Dr Fagliano); Office of Environmental Public Health, Oregon Public Health Division, Portland (Mr Heumann); New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, New York (Mr Kass); and Division of Environmental Hazard and Health Effects, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia, and RTI International, North Carolina (Dr McGeehin).

Correspondence: Martha Stanbury, MSPH, Division of Environmental Health, Michigan Department of Community Health, PO Box 30195, Lansing MI 48909 (

This work was completed while Dr McGeehin was at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This publication was supported by Cooperative Agreement number 5U38HM000414 awarded to the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE) from the CDC. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of CDC or the state and city health departments of the authors.

The authors thank the members of CSTE National Office for their support during the process of developing this article, especially Erin Simms for facilitating communications and Karen Foster for editing.

Disclosure: The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.