JMC and APHL (Association of Public Health Laboratories) have had a long successful relationship, with JMC providing technical assistance to multiple APHL Informatics projects including NMI, ARLN, ETOR, and others. However, recently JMC has engaged with another program at APHL: Environmental Health.
The APHL Environmental Health Program works to fully integrate the public health laboratories into the environmental health system. A key component of this mission is biomonitoring—a process that measures chemical contaminants and their metabolites in people. Biomonitoring provides unique exposure information to inform environmental health decisions, guide consumer choices and evaluate public health interventions. To further the systematic and consistent collection of high-quality biomonitoring data, APHL formed the National Biomonitoring Network.
The National Biomonitoring Network (NBN) is a collaboration of federal, regional, state and local laboratories that conduct biomonitoring for use in public health practice and in response to environmental emergencies. The goals of the NBN are to advance the science of biomonitoring, encourage its use in addressing environmental health questions and ensure quality practices, which will help produce comparable biomonitoring data. The NBN will do this by:
- Defining best practices for study design
- Developing approaches for stakeholder engagement
- Harmonization of laboratory measurements
- Guiding risk communication and results reporting
- Exploring a central repository for biomonitoring data
Over time, the NBN plans to explore options for development of a national repository of high-quality biomonitoring data to be accessible to health officials, researchers and communities investigating environmental health concerns or evaluating the efficacy of public health policy.
JMC has engaged with APHL for multiple phases of the NBN data repository project. In June 2018 – August 2018, a team consisting of Mary Kate Yost-Daljev, Bonny Lewis Van, Cheryl Brower, and Emily Augustini interviewed system administrators from multiple programs that collect data like what the NBN intends to collect. Using this information and customized evaluation rubric, JMC developed recommendations on potential options for housing NBN biomonitoring data.
After the successful completion of this first phase of the project, APHL extended the work with the JMC team to perform a formal discovery process to determine the features and requirements of the NBN Data Repository. The project successfully identified a dynamic strategy to meet the current urgent need to connect existing NBN member laboratories together, as well as established a development roadmap to add features and additional functionality both in the mid and long-term future. This work was completed in July 2019.
The tools developed during these concurrent engagements with the NBN and APHL Environmental Program will be used to inform further development of the NBN data repository, which will ultimately provide high-quality biomonitoring data.