The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) investigates and responds to suspected toxic exposures to hazardous substances, from lead in Michigan to wildfire smoke in California. As part of its mission, it makes up-to-date information about environmental exposure risks available to local, state and federal agencies, researchers, the media and the public.
Tracking and responding to these requests for information is a huge job for the agency. Currently, responding to information requests is a labor-intensive process that puts a significant strain on human resources.
ATSDR has contracted with Battelle to find ways to make the process more efficient and reduce associated labor costs. We are working with the agency to document current processes and develop a new process map that outlines more efficient ways to manage and respond to the requests. Battelle quality experts will then coordinate a system that allows the agency to track requests for data and provide the requested data in the most efficient manner possible.
The work builds on nearly two decades of collaboration between Battelle, ATSDR and the National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH). ATSDR and NCEH are sister agencies, both addressing environmental health risks but with different missions and funding sources. ATSDR, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), responds to environmental health emergencies, investigates potential toxic exposures, conducts research on the health impacts of hazardous waste sites, and provides guidance to state and local public health partners. NCEH, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), coordinates national programs that reduce environmental health risks and protect vulnerable populations. Battelle has supported environmental health programs at NCEH in a variety of capacities for 18 years. This history has given us deep insight into the needs of the agencies and the environmental health challenges they are addressing.
The new contract will leverage this experience along with Battelle’s expertise in environmental health, toxicology, data management and quality assurance. Battelle brings a unique blend of competencies that includes deep environmental subject matter expertise as well as information technology, computer science and environmental informatics. The Battelle team is already working with NCEH and other agencies to build custom databases and algorithms to manage information, enable complex queries and automate systems.
Depending on the findings and recommendations, there may be additional follow-up work to implement new systems and processes outside the scope of this contract. This could eventually include moving to automated platforms that would reduce the reliance on human subject matter experts to respond to queries. The new processes developed under the current contract will help ATSDR better serve the people and agencies who depend on them while controlling their information management costs.