On May 1, 2019, the National Environmental Health Association's (NEHA) board of directors traveled to Washington, DC, to visit Capitol Hill to advocate for NEHA members everywhere. They spent the day talking to senators, representatives, and their staff in over 50 offices from both political parties to ensure that the environmental health profession is at the table when it comes to major policy decisions. "This year's Hill Day was at once rewarding and impactful in that we had very specific pieces of preparedness and workforce legislation to advocate for during our conversations with elected officials," said NEHA Executive Director Dr. David Dyjack. "These efforts will bring over time recognition and resources to our members and the profession at large."
The major focus of the event was to share with staff from the highest level of influencers why we work as environmental health professionals and the importance of a credentialed profession to protect the public's health and safety. NEHA board members discussed the importance of having national guidelines so that every state has a credentialed environmental health workforce. "Organized visits to Capitol Hill are great leadership training experiences for all involved. Leaders need this continual training on the pressing issues to keep NEHA viable," stated NEHA President Dr. Priscilla Oliver.
NEHA board members and staff also asked members of Congress for their support of the Environmental Health Workforce Act of 2019 (HR 2262 and S 1137), which was introduce by Representative Brenda Lawrence (D-Michigan) in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) in the U.S. Senate. These two pieces of legislation will ensure that the 22 states that currently do not require a credentials for those that do environmental health work will have to start credentialing their environmental health workforce. Many staffers on both sides of the political aisle expressed deep interest in learning more about the legislation and promised to discuss it with their elected officials. "Hill Day provided a meaningful in person conversation with our national legislators while we serve as environmental public health ambassadors," reflected NEHA Region 8 Vice-President James Speckhart.
Another topic of discussion was the importance of funding the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Environmental Health/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (NCEH/ATSDR)...