Local Voices. Universal Language.

Author:Ashley, Jonna

The 83rd Annual Educational Conference (AEC) & Exhibition continued the National Environmental Health Association's (NEHA) excellent track record of hosting a highly successful and innovative event. The 2019 AEC took place July 9-12 in the beautiful city of Nashville, Tennessee, affectionately referred to as the Music City because of its robust live music scene. Nearly 1,200 environmental health practitioners from all corners of the globe gathered together to meet, interact, and build their professional networks. Attendees learned how the perspectives of local agencies, industries, and levels of government fit into the universal language of environmental health and how their unique voices advance the profession to ensure the safety of the public and environment.

A highly informative and inspirational keynote address was delivered by Dr. Robert Kadlec, Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Speaking to a capacity crowd, Dr. Kadlec discussed the urgency to protect our nation and its people during increasingly complex and dangerous environments. Dr. Kadlec highlighted opportunities for environmental health professionals to provide their expertise and engage in a shared disaster preparedness mission. He presented key initiatives and priorities of his office, stressing the importance of innovation, recovery after a disaster, and how to restore communities so that every person feels safe and secure upon returning home.

Following Dr. Kadlec's address was Anne Godfrey, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health. Godfrey led a thought-provoking discussion about the history of the environmental health profession, its workforce, and how both have evolved over time. She shared many interesting facts, one being that environmental health practitioners in the United Kingdom were referred to as "Inspectors of Nuisance" back in the 1840s. Food safety, healthy homes, and other topics were covered, with Godfrey providing one of the great quotes of the day: "Size matters when it comes to advocacy but small organizations still have a voice with the expertise of professionals."

The 2019 AEC hosted 205 educational sessions, workshops, and learning labs covering a wide range of prominent and emerging environmental health issues such as emergency response and preparedness, disaster relief and recovery, infectious and vectorborne diseases, climate and health, food safety, and retail food standards, as well as other environmental health topics. Over 250 speakers from around the world shared the latest information, trends, research, tools, and resources to packed rooms. The exhibit hall was filled with over 70 exhibitors from various industries showcasing innovative products and services that improve the job functions and performance of environmental health professionals.

Social events are a fun-filled and popular component of the AEC and this year provided attendees with some of the most exciting events to date! Nearly 800 people relaxed and socialized with their fellow peers aboard the General Jackson Showboat, enjoying scenic views as they cruised down the beautiful Cumberland River. Underwriters Laboratories (UL) hosted another successful UL Event at the historic Grand Ole Opry House. The event included an onstage dinner reception and tours were given backstage where many famous musical icons prepared before appearing on the world-renowned main stage.

NEHA wishes to thank its attendees, members, board, staff, technical advisors, presenters, exhibitors, and sponsors who participated and contributed to the success of the 2019 AEC. The conference could not be possible without you! We look forward to seeing everyone next year in New York City for the 2020 AEC. Check out the promo for next year's conference on page 67.

Education & Training

More than 200 educational, informative, and inspiring sessions along with nearly 1,200 attentive attendees demonstrated at the 2019 AEC that the environmental health profession does speak in local voices that make up a universal language. The sessions encompassed the wide scope of environmental health (see sidebar on page 57 for a list of session tracks) and spanned over three days of the conference.

There was standing-room only for many of the emerging issue topics such as new data and technology developments, cannabis, and the latest food safety regulations and practices. "I was able to collaborate with other environmental professionals and gather ideas to bring back to my organization," one attendee commented on the conference evaluation. Overall, 94% of attendees rated the conference as meeting or exceeding their expectations. In terms of why they attended, 88% of conference attendees wanted to learn more about the most current trends in environmental health, 74% wanted to connect with other environmental health professionals, and 51% wanted to earn continuing education credits.

Sessions with universal appeal garnered the highest attendance. These sessions included the interactive Learning Labs, "Water Emergencies and Outbreaks: Tools and Guidance for Preparedness and Response" presented by Jonathan Yoder from the National Center for Emerging Zoonotic and Infectious Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); and "A NEHA LeaderHERship Sessions: EH Workplace Matters and Sorry, Not Sorry; How to Speak With Authority and Confidence" presented by Michele SamaryaTimm from the Somerset County Department of Health. As one attendee stated, "Several talks were directly relevant to my job and role. I was able to learn new skills that will help me develop as a professional."

CDC's National Center for Environmental Health, cosponsors of the 2019 AEC, hosted water and food safety sessions that were popular with the attendees. Presentation included "Improving Restaurant Food Safety: CDC's Practice-Based Research;" "Critical Contributions: Cases Studies on Environmental Health and Foodborne Illness Outbreak Investigations;" and "Environmental Health Data That Inform Foodborne Illness Outbreak Prevention: CDC's National Environmental Assessment Reporting System."

As in past years, several presentations were recorded at the conference and were made available to 2019 AEC attendees in September to view on NEHA's learning management system. In March 2020, NEHA members will be given access to these presentations. The recorded presentations cover a variety of topics including food safety, cannabis, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), vector control and vectorborne diseases, climate change, and water quality. The Keynote Address, Grand Session Kickoff, and Closing Session were also recorded.

Networking opportunities at the AEC are instrumental in bringing together those who work in the next office, city, county, state, and country. "Networking at NEHA is always among the best, so many opportunities to engage with colleagues from around the world! Saw so many valuable presentations and a wide variety of topics and speakers," commented one attendee. Another attendee went on to say that the 2019 AEC was a "well balanced slate of opportunities for learning and networking."

While the 2019 AEC was just a few months back, work is already under way for the 2020 AEC. The 2020 AEC, NEHA's 84th annual conference, will take place July 13-16 at the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel in New York City. Preconference workshops will take place prior to that on July 11-12. The Call for Abstracts is open until October 7. NEHA seeks abstracts that address the latest advances in environmental health, as well as practical applications in both public and private sectors. Visit www.neha.org/ aec/abstracts for more information. And stay tuned to www.neha.org/aec over the coming months as we start to post information about registration, lodging, special events, and the educational program.

Preconference Courses & Workshops

More than 200 attendees enhanced their knowledge and AEC experience with one of the seven preconference offerings at the 2019 AEC.

As in previous years, attendees had the opportunity to take a review course and exam at the AEC for two of NEHA's most popular credentials--the Registered Environmental Health Specialist/Registered Sanitarian (REHS/RS) and Certified Professional-Food Safety (CP-FS) credentials. The CP-FS Review Course prepared 16 attendees and the REHS/ RS Review Course...

To continue reading