NEHA as a Driver of Public Policy

Article excerpt

Over the years, a persistent theme within a segment of the NEHA membership has been that NEHA should be more involved in taking positions and engaging in policy debates on behalf of the causes of both our profession and our science. I'm pleased to share with the entire membership a brief report on the increasingly significant role that NEHA has been playing in precisely this topic.

In explaining the range of policy-related activity that NEHA has been undertaking, it is important to first define the various methods that NEHA is using to advance policy in ways that support our profession or our science. In particular, the three tracks that we operate on are as follows:

* Author or sign on to original positions on specific issues, and to the extent practical, publicize and promote those positions.

* Participate in various initiatives that aim to evolve public policy in ways that reflect environmental health understandings.

* Informally exert our influence wherever and whenever we have the opportunity to do so.

Taking these in order--

Position Taking

Our board of directors has examined a number of issues over the last several years with an eye to taking a position on them. The same is true for sign-on letters where our board or president have weighed the pros and cons of lending NEHA's good name to environmental health positions emanating from other organizations. The result is a long list of official NEHA positions that cover topics as diverse as deep sea oil drilling, cottage foods, raw milk, global climate change, public health tracking, the use of the Affordable Health Care Act's Prevention Fund money, swimming pools, body art, the built environment, various U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) rule makings, fluoride, housing, radon, One Health, lead, and even vaccinations. In fact, the NEHA board meets four times a year (with one of those meetings being exclusively devoted to financial issues). At each of the other three meetings, we now regularly have an agenda item that deals with positions, policies, resolutions, and the like.

As you can see from this illustrative list, what is so interesting is that the subjects of these positions are so varied. In addition, our positions have dealt with state, national, and international issues; technical and workforce issues; and even internal issues such as the relationship between our various professional credentials. The matter of taking positions and expressing this profession's views has easily become one of the most important functions we carry out.

For a look at some of the positions that your association has been taking, I would encourage you to visit the NEHA Web site at www.neha.org.

Participation in Initiatives

This line of activity might not sound quite as bold or relevant as original position taking, but I assure you, it is every bit as important in terms of getting our viewpoints out there ... if not more so.

Thanks to an involved board, a highly talented staff, and a cadre of outstanding volunteers, we find ourselves more involved in committees, councils, task forces, and study groups these days than at any time in NEHA's history. We have board members serving in key leadership positions in the emerging national integrated food safety system; the Council on Linkages, which connects academia with the practicing professional; code bodies like the International Code Council; an onsite wastewater consortium; and even White House briefings. …