Public Health Assessments

photograph of an abandoned building

What is a public health assessment?

A public health assessment reviews available information about hazardous substances at a site. It evaluates whether exposure to chemicals might harm people. A public health assessment considers all environmental issues related to actual or possible human exposure. A Public Health Assessment is not the same thing as a medical exam or a community health study. A public heath assessment can be prepared by either the Tennessee Department of Health, Environmental Epidemiology Program, or the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR).

A public health assessment uses three primary sources of information:

  • environmental data, such as measurements of chemicals and the pathways that people could come into contact with them;
  • health data, including available information on community-wide rates of illness, injury, disease, or death compared with national and state rates; and
  • community concerns, such as information from the general public about how the site may have affected their health or quality of life

A Health Assessment often includes:

  • background
  • statement of Issues
  • discussion
  • child health considerations
  • conclusions
  • recommendations
  • public health action plan
  • references
  • tables and figures
  • maps and photos
  • certification

A public health assessment considers:

how much (the concentration) of a hazardous substance is present at a site;
whether people have been or might become exposed to the hazardous substance;
what exposure pathways,such as breathing, touching, eating, or drinking, are present at the site or in the community;
what harm (the toxicity) a hazardous substance might cause to people;
whether living or working near a hazardous waste site might affect people’s health; and
other dangers to people, such as unsafe buildings, dangerous objects, abandoned mine shafts, or other physical hazards.

Assessments for Downloads

list of public health assessments and consultations conducted by the Environmental Epidemiology Program can be viewed by clicking here.