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Environmental Health Capacity (EHC) Program

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The Environmental Health Capacity (EHC) Program is funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and seeks to detect, prevent, and control environmental health hazards through data-driven and evidence-based approaches.

EHC partners with state agencies, universities, non-profit partners, and community-based advocates and stakeholders, including environmental justice groups. Based on interest among stakeholders throughout the state, the EHC program is currently focused on the following activities:

Environmental Health Indicators (EHI) Map: This map displays environmental health indicators and relevant risk factors, particularly for vulnerable populations. The map compiles information from DOH, DEP and several federal agencies to provide context about overlapping environmental hazards and social and health vulnerabilities. Information about the data used is available in the technical guidance document. The map tool document provides guidance on how to use various tools built into the EHI map.

Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs): Identification and surveillance of Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) and associated illnesses to determine their occurrence patterns, protect water and food supplies, and prevent adverse impacts on human health.

Families with Young Children: This activity aims to analyze, identify, and describe sociodemographic and geographic conditions that put families and children at risk of environmental health hazards in PA. Environmental health data gathering, especially from parents, childcare providers, health care professionals, and knowledge-building efforts, will be conducted to develop outreach materials to address the environmental health vulnerabilities of families with young children.

The EHC Program developed a nano training on the Air Quality Index (AQI) specifically designed for childcare providers, teachers, and other school staff. The main objective of this concise training is to educate and inform these professionals on how to take necessary precautions to keep children safe from potential outdoor air pollution hazards. The training offers valuable insights on the AQI, including what the different color categories of the index mean, and suggests ways to incorporate the AQI in the classroom. By empowering educators and staff with this knowledge, we can help reduce the negative impact of air pollution on children's health and well-being.

Private Well WaterThe goal of this EHC activity is to ensure safe, private well drinking water by addressing the causes and consequences of contaminated ground and surface water and the associated health risks from using contaminated private well water (see Private Well Water Fact Sheet), assessing knowledge of private well water care or maintenance, encouraging, and funding testing and mitigation.

According to the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey's 2020 data, an estimated 26% of Pennsylvania's adults rely on private well water as their main drinking water source. The EHC Program is partnering with Penn State Extension's Drinking Water Program to offer free water testing for private well owners.

Penn State's Analytical Agricultural Analytical Lab publishes all drinking water quality test results collected since 2007, sorted by county. Penn State Extension also provides information on how to obtain and submit water testing kits. Interested individuals can also enroll in free online classes through the Private Well Class that are designed to help a homeowner better understand how to properly care for their water well, to ensure their water remains safe to drink.

The EHC Program has prepared a report summarizing United States Geological Survey well water data for those residing in seven Northern PA counties including Bradford, Clinton, Lycoming, Pike, Potter, Sullivan, and Wayne. The purpose of this report is to educate and inform actions by private well owners and to raise drinking water quality awareness among public health stakeholders.

Radon: This EHC activity seeks to increase awareness of radon and mitigate its impact on individuals' health.

Annual EHC Reports

* Upcoming

EHC Advisory Board Members

  • Office of Environmental Justice, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection
  • Office of Operational Excellence, Pennsylvania Department of Health
  • Bureau of Community Health Systems, Pennsylvania Department of Health
  • Bureau of Informatics and Information Technology, Pennsylvania Department of Health
  • Women for a Healthy Environment