PSR speaks out on need for health tracking system  

By Jennifer Lassiter
star staff

ÊÊ  Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) came to East Tennessee State University (ETSU) Thursday, to inform and educate concerned citizens on the need to have a health tracking system in Tennessee and the Tri-Cities area.
  According to a study done by PSR, approximately 12,600 people die from cancer annually, making the state 7th in the nation in 2003 for the highest rate of death from all cancers.
  PSR partnered with environmental health researchers to assess the emerging links between chronic diseases and environmental exposures and to generate a set of policy and research recommendations. PSR's goal is to raise awareness to health care providers, researchers and policy makers about increased evidence, which suggests links between environmental issues and chronic diseases.
  Dr. Tony DeLucia, a professor of surgery at ETSU, was a speaker at the educational session. DeLucia joined up with PSR in January 2003 to speak on asthma-related issues. DeLucia is a lung and health expert with specialized training and research with interactions of air pollution, exercise and other environmental conditions.
  According to DeLucia, physicians know asthma is caused by several factors, but by incorporating a health tracking system, climate changes and toxic emissions could be directly linked to health problems in Tennessee.
  A study done by PSR states, "Approximately 290,000 residents in Tennessee suffer from asthma, and ozone levels in the regions of Tennessee are among the highest in the country."
  DeLucia is board member of Kingsport Tomorrow, and is actively involved in a group of local businesses, physicians and health care providers. Community Health Improvement Providers (CHIP) is currently working on innovative ideas to link patient data throughout all health care systems to significantly improve patient care.
  According to PSR, Tennesseans are specifically vulnerable to respiratory illnesses, birth defects, and cancer due to high rates of toxic emissions that contribute to some of the poorest air quality in the country.
  What is a health tracking system and how could it help Tennesseans? According to Michelle Chuk, a public health program director for PSR, it is a network that is able to identify populations at risk and respond to emerging threats in the community. "In a perfect world, the system would include a national baseline for tracking, a state pilot program and a warning system," said Chuk.
  There are many barriers to starting a pilot program in the region -- political and economical. Rasa Zimlicki, a field coordinator for PSR, spoke on voting issues and voter education in Tennessee.
  Contacting local elections offices is one way Zimlicki spoke on how to find out issues that are important, and planning a voter registration drive. More importantly, registering to vote is the first step toward participating in the Democratic process.
  Cathy Riddle, President of the Watauga League of Women Voters, attended the meeting and encouraged citizens to get involved with campaigns and to help other Americans vote. The League of Woman Voters of Watauga published a Web site, "Know Your Government Officials," which includes officials in Carter County and Elizabethton along with surrounding counties and even U.S. government officials.
  Linda Modica, President of The State of Franklin Sierra Club, spoke briefly on Nuclear Fuels System (NFS) in Erwin, and the environmental impact on local citizens. Although some evidence exists of a negative impact, a health tracking system could specifically link health concerns to environmental hazards.