Integrating Environmental and Human Health Databases in the Great Lakes Basin: Themes, Challenges and Future Directions
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Many government, academic and research institutions collect environmental data that are relevant to understanding the relationship between environmental exposures and human health. Integrating these data with health outcome data presents new challenges that are important to consider to improve our effective use of environmental health information. Our objective was to identify the common themes related to the integration of environmental and health data, and suggest ways to address the challenges and make progress toward more effective use of data already collected, to further our understanding of environmental health associations in the Great Lakes region. Environmental and human health databases were identified and reviewed using literature searches and a series of one-on-one and group expert consultations. Databases identified were predominantly environmental stressors databases, with fewer found for health outcomes and human exposure. Nine themes or factors that impact integration were identified: data availability, accessibility, harmonization, stakeholder collaboration, policy and strategic alignment, resource adequacy, environmental health indicators, and data exchange networks. The use and cost effectiveness of data currently collected could be improved by strategic changes to data collection and access systems to provide better opportunities to identify and study environmental exposures that may impact human health.
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