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World Environmental Health Day

29th September 2020 RIAMS

On Saturday 26 September, we celebrated World Environmental Health Day.

The holistic approach that Environmental Health embodies should be celebrated and we are in full support of the IFEH World Environmental Health day on. Looking across the pond to the USA and the NEHA ‘Covid-19 Response Stories’ on Facebook illustrates clearly how issues spinning out from Covid-19 are being tackled by EHPs across the globe. EHPs provide a dedicated and oftentimes unnoticed service to their local communities. As the Covid-19 (SARS-CoV-2) continues to play out, it is my hope that Environmental Health will get the recognition it deserves.

One of the biggest impacts of the Covid-19 lockdown here in the UK and across the world is the negative impact on mental health created by economic uncertainty, unemployment and the necessary, but challenging, restrictions to our personal freedoms. The lockdown has exacerbated local issues that require skilled EHPs to solve. Here at RHE, we have noticed through The Noise App a surge of noise and antisocial behaviour problems as people have to stay at home with fewer opportunities to socialise and blow off steam. The same will be true for many other well-known issues - poor housing has not gone away and tenants enduring substandard accommodation will be worse off from the mental and physical impact of the poor conditions. And of course, there’s the hospitality industry that needs expert environmental health support as it springs back from a devastating shutdown in the second quarter of 2020.

While national initiatives tackling Covid-19 get the headlines, it’s the local environmental health services that will pick up the tasks that make a real difference. The UK’s highly centralised ‘Track and Trace’ service managed to consume large amounts of the public purse, but in the end, EHPs are being called upon to use their skills and local knowledge to reduce the spread of Coronavirus.

So, here in the UK, it’s a big thank you to EHPs out there on the front line and it’s all eyes on the government to see if environmental health will get the recognition it deserves. Perhaps a National Chief EHO could step into the vacuum left from the demise of Public Health England? The Welsh Government has shown how effective a National Chief EHO can be, this role has enabled a very effective and joined-up national and local response to Covid19 and Environmental Health has received the recognition it fully deserves.