Editor's Note: NEHA strives to provide up-to-date and relevant information on environmental health and to build partnerships in the profession. In pursuit of these goals, the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) features this column on environmental health services from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in every issue of the Journal.
In these columns, authors from CDC's Water, Food, and Environmental Health Services Branch, as well as guest authors, will share insights and information about environmental health programs, trends, issues, and resources. The conclusions in these columns are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official position of CDC.
Maggie Byrne is a communicator in the Water, Food, and Environmental Health Services Branch at CDC's National Center for Environmental Health. Kayleigh Hall is an Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) fellow in the same branch. Dr. Natasha DeJarnett is the interim associate director of Program and Partnership Development at NEHA. Reem Tariq and Madelyn Gustafson are project coordinators in Program and Partnership Development at NEHA.
Health departments represent the frontline of public health but how much do we really know about the professionals working there? Profiles of state and local health departments provide helpful information about health department services and programs. In fact, these profiles document that environmental health is one the largest segments of the public health workforce (Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, 2017; National Association of County and City Health Officials, 2017). Detailed information about the environmental health profession, however, is beyond the scope of those assessments.
To better understand environmental health professionals and the programs they lead, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) National Center for Environmental Health, the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA), and Baylor University partnered to conduct a first of its kind assessment of this critical group within governmental health departments. The initiative became known as Understanding the Needs, Challenges, Opportunities, Vision, and Emerging Roles in Environmental Health (UNCOVER EH).
Contacting environmental health professionals across the nation turned out to be no small undertaking. Overall, the final results included responses from 1,700 environmental health...