2007 NEHA's Annual Educational Conference & Exhibition: Atlantic City, New Jersey

Journal of Environmental Health, October 2007 | Go to article overview

2007 NEHA's Annual Educational Conference & Exhibition: Atlantic City, New Jersey


your eyes will be opened. Your brain will be stimulated. Your soul will be recharged.

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Those were our promises to attendees of NEHA's 71st AEC & Exhibition in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Were we true to our word? Yes. Just listen to these comments from our attendees:

* If you have never had the opportunity to attend an AEC, make the effort to do so ... it provides attendees with the fuel to approach their job with renewed energy, new ideas, and the network to make it through their careers.

* Overall, the conference exceeded my expectations. Meeting people from different parts of the country and world broadened my horizons.

NEHA's AEC was held June 18-21, 2007, and featured 179 educational sessions and six pre-conference workshops, on topics ranging from terrorism and all-hazards preparedness to onsite wastewater to food safety and protection. A summary of the conference highlights is included in the special report below. We hope this report will encourage you to attend next year's conference in Tucson!

Keynote Presentation

Imagine yourself in the position of representing a nation, much as an ambassador would, as a delegate to the World Health Organization's (WHO's) World Assembly. The World Assembly is WHO's 193-member decision-making body, and as a member, you are listening to a major policy presentation on global warming and public health that will serve in part as the basis for WHO policy making.

NEHA's 2007 AEC attendees did just that. They heard the very presentation that the assembly's delegates heard last May, before the delegates began their policy discussions on the role of WHO in what many consider to be the environmental health issue of the day. Dr. Wilfried Kreisel, former WHO executive director, was the official behind this presentation.

Dr. Kreisel has been a leader in environmental health at WHO for more than 25 years, ultimately serving as WHO's director for environmental health. In this position, he formulated an entirely different way of looking at environmental health, taking into account such considerations as sustainable development. This approach led to the formulation of a completely new Health and Environment Strategy for WHO. The strategy set the scene for the development of National Environmental Health Action Plans, which continue to serve as the basis for renewed environmental health policies and programs in many WHO member states.

Kreisel was also instrumental in the organization of the 1992 Rio Conference on the environment and what followed. With the declarations that came out of this landmark event, environmental health has become an anchoring issue in national and international discussions on sustainable development.

Kreisel began his presentation by stating that there is a general consensus that the climate is changing and that there is new and stronger evidence that most of the observed warming over the past 50 years is attributable to human activities. Furthermore, he said, we have always known that climate affects health. What are the effects? Temperature-related illness and death, extreme weather-related health effects, air pollution-related effects, waterborne and foodborne diseases, vectorborne and rodentborne diseases, food and water shortages, and population displacement are all climate change effects. Incidence of diarrhea, for example--a disease that causes about 1.8 million deaths a year worldwide, mainly in children in developing countries--is related to variations in temperature and precipitation, over both space and time. Daily measurements taken at a hospital in Lima, Peru, from 1993 to 1998 indicated an 8 percent increase in diarrhea for every 1[degrees]C temperature increase.

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Can we estimate health effects of climate change in the future? The Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, adopted in 2001, consisted mainly of a qualitative assessment, but was also able to quantify deaths from thermal extremes, for areas climatically suitable for malaria transmission, from food deficits, and from exposure to coastal flooding. …

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