Environmental Data

The public health exposome database combines measures of each of four environmental domains (physical/natural, built, social, and policy) with other information in a geographic information system (GIS).  Each of these four major domains has been systematically broken down into subcategories (e.g. physical/natural environment is further broken down as air, climate, water, land cover and land use). Each subcategory, in turn is defined in smaller units and associated with a specific database(s). Specific exposures are described by level and frequency of dosage and life stage in which they occur, and their impact on the person.

Public Health Exposome Environmental Domains

The natural/physical environment was broadly defined as atmosphere, climate, water, land cover and land use. Different data indicators of the natural/physical environment were then identified, processed, geocoded and entered into the public health exposome database. Colleagues from the SRA/National Space Science and Technology Center, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center assisted us in processing and geocoding, remotely sensed data, including daily rates of particulate matter (PM) 2.5, heat index, precipitation, minimum and maximum temperatures, and incoming solar radiation. In addition, a considerable amount of other data is derived from ground stations and field samples of emissions, heavy metals, toxic dump and storage sites, Brownfields, and collected by the EPA with other federal, state, and local agencies, have been geocoded and included in the public health exposome database.

The social environment is one of four environmental domains included in the public health exposome model. The major components of the social determinants domain were identified as social/cultural, demographic, political, and economic factors. For the purpose of organizing the public health exposome database, all data from the US Census are included under demography. Social/cultural data include indicators such as community segregation, violence, religiosity, and neighborhood and social capital indicators. Data sources include, but are not limited to US Census (1990, 2000. 2010), American Community Survey, Uniform Crime Reports, Area Resource Files, Department of Labor, and ESRI Community Analyst and Tapestry datasets.  All data are geocoded at the county level or smaller.

The built environment is the third domain included in the public health exposome.  The built environment includes data about places we work, live, play, and learn. In addition, other data on transportation systems, zoning, health professions shortage areas, and community assets, such as parks and recreation facilities, greenways, bicycle lanes, farmers markets, fast food outlets, food stores, health care providers and facilities also were collected and included in the built environment section. Data sources used include the Area Resource Files, HRSA data warehouse, and state and municipal planning offices.

Public policy is the fourth environmental domain of the public health exposome. In recent years, HDRCOE investigators have examined the relationship between the enactment of federal and state laws and local ordinances and health outcomes and disparities. For example, we have compiled data on states which have passed primary seat belt legislation and its relationship to motor vehicle crash fatalities. Similarly, we are exploring the relationship between the passage of county and municipal smoking bans and changes in lung cancer mortality and respiratory disease.