Public Health Laboratory

Public Health Laboratory

'******note: this information is NOT applicable to the U.S. system based on its references; Israel, Japan, EU (concerned viewer)'

Public Health Laboratories operate as a first line of defense to protect the public against diseases and other health hazards. Working in collaboration with other arms of the nation’s public health system, public health laboratories provide clinical diagnostic testing, disease surveillance, environmental and radiological testing, emergency response support, applied research, laboratory training and other essential services to the communities they serve. Public health laboratory scientists are highly educated specialists with knowledge of one or more scientific disciplines, advanced skills in laboratory practice and the ability to apply this expertise to the solution of complex problems affecting human health.

Every US state and territory, as well as the District of Columbia, has a central public health laboratory that performs testing and other laboratory services on behalf of the entire jurisdiction. In addition, most states have local public health laboratories, ranging in size from large metropolitan laboratories with hundreds of scientists to small rural laboratories with one or two staff, that support local public health activities like sexually transmitted disease control, drinking water testing, and lead abatement.

State and large local public health laboratories frequently perform tests that are unavailable elsewhere. At the state level, public health laboratories help formulate public policies, develop new methods to detect and combat infectious disease and environmental pollutants and toxins, regulate private medical and environmental laboratories, and perform other essential services to protect residents’ health and well-being. At the federal level, state public health laboratories are a critical part of the national laboratory networks that support response to national emergencies and incidents involving food, disease, environment, and agriculture.

Many state public health laboratories also perform environmental testing. In some states the environmental and public health laboratory are the same entity, often located within the state health department. In others, the environmental laboratory is a separate institution under the department of environmental quality or natural resources.

Environmental laboratories provide analytical testing support for state programs including drinking water, wastewater, solid waste and air quality. Originally created to test municipal water and effluent from wastewater treatment plants, environmental laboratories have shifted to focus on macro-pollutants over the last 35 years as environmental degradation has progressed. Testing capabilities have advanced to become increasingly selective, sensitive and sophisticated. In some states, environmental laboratories and scientists charged with evaluating the health effects of environmental exposure to trace environmental pollutants have collaborated to form biomonitoring and environmental health tracking programs. These programs aim to assess the chemicals present in human bodies and correlate them with environmental exposures.

Both public health and environmental laboratories are committed to keeping the environment safe and protecting public health.

Read more about Public Health Laboratory:  Core Functions of Public Health Laboratories, Public Health Laboratory Services, International Accreditation

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