Amplifying environmental health visibility to build capacity.

Author:Booth, Darryl

Editor's Note: A need exists within environmental health agencies to increase their capacity to perform in an environment of diminishing resources. With limited resources and increasing demands, we need to seek new approaches to the business of environmental health.

Acutely aware of these challenges, NEHA has initiated a partnership with Accela called Building Capacity. Building Capacity is a joint effort to educate, reinforce, and build upon successes within the profession, using technology to improve efficiency and extend the impact of environmental health agencies.

The Journal is pleased to publish this bimonthly column from Accela that will provide readers with insight into the Building Capacity initiative, as well as be a conduit for fostering the capacity building of environmental health agencies across the country.

The conclusions of this column are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of NEHA.

Darryl Booth is senior vice president and general manager of environmental health at Accela and has been monitoring regulatory and data tracking needs of agencies across the U.S. for almost 20 years. He serves as technical advisor to NEHA's informatics and technology section.

Take a measure of the public's health. In so doing, you've taken a corresponding measure of the relevant environmental health programs for that population. Yet, a healthful public (healthful thanks to decades of mindful public health interventions) will eventually, and subconsciously, decouple these results from the health program activities that helped establish that state. Just think about the antivaccine movement as an easy example of the cultural dissonance that occurs as time passes, despite easy access to the facts.

Health departments thus find themselves having to sustain not only their current levels of success but also the public's perceived value of environmental health programs if they are to ensure continued funding and support. It follows, then, that demonstrating the real value of public health programs can be difficult--how can one effectively measure the absence of illness or a hazard?

We put this question out to members of the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA). The passionate response showed that while this issue is a common challenge, many health departments are taking steps to address it. What follows are four activities health departments can undertake to measure and promote their impact.

They Put a Number on...

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