NEHA November 2022 Journal of Environmental Health

44 Volume 85 • Number 4 A D VANC EME N T O F T H E PRACTICE  D I RECT FROM CDC ENV I RONMENTAL HEALTH SERV I CES Environmental health professionals are embracing informatics as a tool to improve the health of populations across the nation (Choucair et al., 2015). It is essential to ensure the public has access to environmental health-related data, such as restaurant and recreational water inspections, to help make informed decisions about health and safety. While many environmental health programs across the country share their data using online platforms, this practice is not universal and the timeliness, ease of access, and extent of data sharing vary across programs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) partnered with the Public Health Informatics Institute (PHII) to better understand how environmental health programs collect and share data. The project included: • an environmental scan of food safety, restaurant inspection, and recreational water data collection and sharing; • key informant interviews; and • the PHII business process analysis workshop. The environmental scan provided baseline information for the key informant interviews and inventoried important literature and web resources related to restaurant and recreational water inspections. Representatives from three state agencies (Georgia Department of Public Health, Maryland Department of Health, and Virginia Department of Health) and two local agencies (Riverside County Department of Public Health and Southern Nevada Health District) participated in key informant interviews and a 2-day business process analysis workshop (Table 1). Workshop activities informed key business processes (Table 2), identified phases that might categorize data processes and systems (Table 3), and provided insight for possible practices for standardizing data. Suggested Practices for Standardizing Data The information gathered from the key informants provided insight into data standardization (Table 2). A standardized approach to food and water inspection data collection starts with an electronic data collection system. Inspection data are most e“ective if collected and stored in a standardized, electronic format that is timely, accessible, and compatible with other technology platforms, and that allows for the user to query the data. This approach can significantly increase data accuracy and data access, reduce human error, and improve reporting capabilities. Standardizing Data Collection The best practice for food and water inspection data collection is to have an electronic data system with automatic synchronization from an electronic field collection to a database (Table 3). In addition, the use of input controls to help standardize data entry is crucial. Data collection should be complete, accurate, consistent, and timely. Validating Data As jurisdictions adopt model codes, such as the Food and Drug Administration model Food Code (www.fda.gov/food/retail-food-protection/fda-food-code) and the CDC Model Aquatic Health Code (www.cdc.gov/mahc/ index.html), a standardized inspection form can be developed. Additionally, the version of Leveraging Informatics to Improve Environmental Health Practice and Innovation Erik W. Coleman, MPH Aja-Fatou Jagne, MPH Andrew J. Ruiz, MSPH, BCE Ed i tor ’s Not e : The National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) strives to provide up-to-date and relevant information on environmental health and to build partnerships in the profession. In pursuit of these goals, NEHA features this column on environmental health services from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in every issue of the Journal. In these columns, authors from CDC’s Water, Food, and Environmental Health Services Branch, as well as guest authors, will share tools, resources, and guidance for environmental health practitioners. The conclusions in these columns are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the o…cial position of CDC. Erik Coleman, Aja-Fatou Jagne, and Andrew Ruiz are health scientists within the Water, Food, and Environmental Health Services Branch in the Division of Environmental Health Science and Practice at CDC.

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