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Orientation to Environmental Health


Today, objectives in public and private health practices include health maintenance, as well as prevention and treatment of disease.  While the main thrust in medicine is treatment of disease, a human's first line of defense against disease is environmental management.  Throughout history, the greatest accomplishments in the reduction of disease and discomfort have been accomplished by altering the environment.  The environmental health professional (both Engineers and Sanitarians) is concerned with the prevention of disease by the prevention, detection, and control of environmental hazards that affect human health.

People have been practicing environmental management for centuries.  In the 1800's, during an epidemic of cholera in London, England, a man named Snow capped a well that he had identified as being involved with the outbreak, effectively ending the epidemic.  His basic knowledge of the disease and mapping its occurrences has evolved into modern epidemiology.  Since this forms the basis of public health, it is imperative that environmental health professionals have a good working basic knowledge of epidemiology and general public health.

In the past, environmental health professionals have limited their role in public health to enforcement of laws affecting public health.  More recently, environmental health professionals realize that initiating and implementing health education programs in the community promotes an understanding of environmental principles.  Education of the public not only encourages correct behaviors, but it also helps the public view the environmental health professional as a partner in promoting a healthful and safe environment.

It is necessary that environmental health professionals have a broad background to draw upon due to the increasing complexities of environmental health problems.  It also requires a continuing development of expertise and an updating of knowledge.  Currently, these are some of the programs in which environmental health professionals in West Virginia are working:

Programs/Inspections/Investigations

Asbestos

Bottled Water

Child Care Facilities

Clean Indoor Air

Disaster Sanitation

Epidemiological Investigations

Fairs and Festivals

Food Establishments/ Food Manufacturing

Home Loan Evaluations

Housing / Institutions

Infectious Medical Waste

Lead

Lodging

Manufactured Home Communities

Milk

Rabies Prevention

Recreation/ Camps

Recreational Water Facilities

Radiation

Schools

Sewage (mostly on-site and cluster systems)

Tattoo/Body Piercing

Threat Preparedness (biological and chemical terrorism)

Vector Control

Water (both public and private supplies)                    

 

 

A comprehensive look into the practices and science of Environmental Health can be found in Environmental Engineering and Sanitation,  by Joseph Salvato.

Page Updated: 03/27/2015