Academic journal article Journal of Environmental Health

Healthy Housing and Farm Life "Across the Pond": My Sabbatical Experience: 2008 NEHA Sabbatical Exchange Ambassador England

Academic journal article Journal of Environmental Health

Healthy Housing and Farm Life "Across the Pond": My Sabbatical Experience: 2008 NEHA Sabbatical Exchange Ambassador England

Article excerpt

Sabbatical Goal

Environmental health practitioners, with the proper training and opportunity, can provide information and guidance for a number of healthy housing issues. In South Carolina, environmental health practitioners enter private homes for a limited number of reasons, usually for a lead-based paint issue. Environmental health practitioners in England visit private homes on a much more frequent basis, and consider a wider range of hazards during a visit. The Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) used in England looks at 29 possible hazards during a physical survey of the home. As a credentialed Healthy Homes Specialist and a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) certified lead risk assessor, I wanted to learn more about the HHSRS. The NEHA Sabbatical Exchange Ambassador Award made it possible for me to spend most of the month of March 2009 in England, working with environmental health officers (EHOs) from several areas of the country. In addition to healthy housing, I also learned about the British scheme for training EHOs. One of the most moving aspects of my sabbatical experience was the opportunity to meet and talk with farmers who had been affected by the 2001 and 2007 outbreaks of foot and mouth disease (FMD).


I work as an environmental health manager in the bureau of environmental health at the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC). I have been with the agency for over 10 years and have worked exclusively in environmental health for the past three years. Environmental health practitioners (EHPs) working for DHEC rarely conduct any sort of inspection or investigation of private residences. The main exceptions to this are general sanitation inspections, lead risk assessments for foster homes, and elevated blood lead investigations for children. NEHA now offers a Healthy Homes Specialist (HHS) credential, in conjunction with the National Center for Healthy Housing and the National Healthy Homes Training Center and Network. The HHS credential is a nationally recognized credential that covers the connection between health and housing, housing codes and related laws, housing as a system, healthy homes strategies, and resources for healthy homes. The degree to which public health and environmental health departments are involved in housing-related issues varies widely across the country and may not even be consistent within a particular state.

I was fortunate to meet Peter Wright, part-time education officer with the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH), at the NEHA Annual Education Conference & Exhibition (AEC) in Tucson in 2008. The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health is NEHA's sister agency in Great Britain. It is the governing, educational, and professional body in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland for environmental health, with over 10,000 members across Great Britain and other parts of the world. CIEH's London headquarters is home to the central management team, which encompasses the following divisions: policy, education and professional standards, communications, memberships and information services, events, training, publishing and finance, and IT and administration. Without Peter's patience, diligence, and amazing contacts, I am confident that my sabbatical exchange would not have been the incredibly rewarding experience that it was.

As a public health professional, I could not leave London without paying a visit to the site of the infamous Broad Street Pump. The pump is no longer there; in its place is a pink granite curbstone. On the corner is a pub named the John Snow, and there is a plaque commemorating his discovery of the connection between the water supply and health (SEE PHOTOS 1 and 2). Dr. John Snow is known as the father of modern epidemiology. He mapped cases of cholera during the 18471848 London epidemic and determined that a contaminated water supply was the source of the disease. …

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