Data sources for an environmental quality index: availability, quality, and utility

Am J Public Health. 2011 Dec;101 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):S277-85. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2011.300184. Epub 2011 Aug 11.


Objectives: An environmental quality index (EQI) for all counties in the United States is under development to explore the relationship between environmental insults and human health. The EQI is potentially useful for investigators researching health disparities to account for other concurrent environmental conditions. This article focused on the identification and assessment of data sources used in developing the EQI. Data source strengths, limitations, and utility were addressed.

Methods: Five domains were identified that contribute to environmental quality: air, water, land, built, and sociodemographic environments. An inventory of possible data sources was created. Data sources were evaluated for appropriate spatial and temporal coverage and data quality.

Results: The overall data inventory identified multiple data sources for each domain. From the inventory (187 sources, 617 records), the air, water, land, built environment, and sociodemographic domains retained 2, 9, 7, 4, and 2 data sources for inclusion in the EQI, respectively. However, differences in data quality, geographic coverage, and data availability existed between the domains.

Conclusions: The data sources identified for use in the EQI may be useful to researchers, advocates, and communities to explore specific environmental quality questions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Air / standards*
  • Data Collection / standards*
  • Data Collection / statistics & numerical data
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis
  • Environmental Exposure / standards*
  • Humans
  • Quality Control*
  • United States
  • Water Quality / standards*