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NEHA: New Study Assesses the Roles, Needs, and Priorities of the Environmental Health Workforce

The National Environmental Health Association’s (NEHA) Journal of Environmental Health has published the article “Uncovering Environmental Health: An Initial Assessment of the Profession’s Health Department Workforce and Practice.” This groundbreaking article is the first of its kind to present the demographics, characteristics, education and training, practice areas, and aspects of leadership and satisfaction among the environmental health workforce.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Environmental Health Association, and Baylor University partnered on the Understanding the Needs, Challenges, Opportunities, Vision, and Emerging Roles in Environmental Health (UNCOVER EH) initiative. UNCOVER EH collected information from more than 1,700 environmental health professionals in health departments across the nation. UNCOVER EH seeks to assess and improve the profession and practice of environmental health.

“The UNCOVER EH initiative allows us to hear directly from environmental health professionals about their practice, work, and challenges,” said Dr. Erik R. Svendsen, director of the CDC Division of Environmental Health Science and Practice. “We hope this information is used to strengthen environmental health programs in health departments and enhance their efforts to prevent exposures to environmental health hazards and improve the health of all people in the communities they serve.”

“Environmental health practitioners work tirelessly, often under supported, to protect the health of local communities, yet their efforts have remained poorly understood until now,” said Distinguished Professor and director of environmental health science at Baylor University Dr. Bryan W. Brooks, who serves as principal investigator of UNCOVER EH. “The UNCOVER EH Initiative is providing critical information on the public health programs these professionals are managing, the strategic threats we are facing, and timely opportunities emerging to transform delivery of essential environmental public health services that matter to all of us.”

“NEHA is proud to partner with CDC and Baylor University on the UNCOVER EH study. The environmental health workforce is often overlooked and this revolutionary article provides valuable insight into the profession. We are pleased to work on this important initiative and lead the mission to improve the practice of environmental health,” said NEHA executive director, Dr. David Dyjack.

Accompanying the release of this article are two fact sheets that provide insight on salary and credential information collected from the UNCOVER EH research study. Uncovering Earnings and Education in Environmental Health examines salary differences in the environmental health workforce among degree types, position levels, and by jurisdiction. Environmental health professionals that hold a Registered Environmental Health Specialist/Registered Sanitarian (REHS/RS) credential are compared by position type and jurisdiction population size in Uncovering Environmental Health Credentials.

Given the importance of the environmental health workforce to ensure healthy communities, it is critical to understand the environmental health workforce and the challenges it faces to provide solutions to meet these needs. Information from the UNCOVER EH study can inform workforce development activities and support the advancement of the environmental health profession. Together, these new resources provide an initial attempt to describe and understand environmental health practice in the U.S.