Developing Environmental Public Health Leadership

By Sarisky, John | Journal of Environmental Health, March 2006 | Go to article overview
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Developing Environmental Public Health Leadership

Sarisky, John, Journal of Environmental Health

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, we will feature a column from the Environmental Health Services Branch (EHSB) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in every issue of the Journal.

EHSB's objective is to strengthen the role of state, local, and national environmental health programs and professionals to anticipate, identify, and respond to adverse environmental exposures and the consequences of these exposures for human health. The services being developed through EHSB include access to topical, relevant, and scientific information; consultation; and assistance to environmental health specialists, sanitarians, and environmental health professionals and practitioners.

EHSB appreciates NEHA's invitation to provide monthly columns for the Journal. In the coming months, EHSB staff will be highlighting a variety of concerns, opportunities, challenges, and successes that we all share in environmental public health. This month's column provides an overview of the Environmental Public Health Leadership Institute.

What challenges await leaders of environmental public health? Are leaders prepared to face these challenges? The National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continuously works with its many public health partners to envision and prepare for future environmental public health needs. Recent discussions with environmental and public health practitioners, interest groups, members of academia, and nongovernmental organizations have provided insights on the condition of public and environmental health in the United States. The assessment found an environmental public health workforce challenged by emerging and difficult problems. It also identified the preparation of environmental public health leaders as a critical unmet need.


Building the leadership capacity of the environmental public health workforce is a primary objective of the NCEH National Strategy to Revitalize Environmental Public Health Services. One way in which NCEH is achieving this goal is through the Environmental Public Health Leadership Institute (EPHLI). EPHLI is modeled after a leadership training program for environmental public health professionals piloted in 2004-2005. The program was developed by CDC's Environmental Health Services Branch (EHSB) working with NEHA, the Louisville Metro Health Department, and the National Public Health Leadership Development Network.

Effective environmental public health leadership ensures that the environmental public health delivery system can respond to emerging threats, and it coordinates the delivery of needed services in areas affected by any form of disaster. Clear and decisive leadership is especially important in times of crisis and chaos. The environmental public health services system must have leaders who can provide critical guidance during emergencies.

The history of public health in the United States abounds with success stories. Leaders have confronted and resolved serious issues by accepting responsibility, establishing direction, motivating and inspiring people, and implementing needed action.

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