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NEHA Adopts New Definitions of
Environmental Health

NEHA approved newly revised definitions of the terms “environmental health” and “environmental health professional” at the July 2013 board of directors meeting in Crystal City, Virginia. The approval was the culmination of a year-long process of reviewing previously published definitions, proposing revisions to the NEHA board of directors, publishing draft definitions for public comment, conducting an opinion survey, incorporating public comment, and final revision.

Definition of Environmental Health

Environmental health is the science and practice of promoting optimal human health, well-being, and preventing illness and injury by

  • identifying and evaluating sources of threat to human health and the environment and

  • limiting exposures to physical, chemical, and biological agents in air, water, soil, food, and other environmental media or settings that may adversely affect human health or the environment.

Definition of Environmental Health Professional or Specialist

An environmental health professional or specialist is a practitioner with appropriate academic education and training and registration or certification to

  • investigate, sample, measure, and assess hazardous environmental agents in various environmental media and settings;

  • recommend and apply protective interventions that control hazards to health;

  • develop, promote, and enforce guidelines, policies, laws, and regulations;

  • develop and provide health communications and educational materials;

  • manage and lead environmental health units within organizations;

  • perform systems analysis;

  • engage community members to understand, address, and revolve problems;

  • review construction and land use plans and make recommendations;

  • interpret research utilizing science and evidence to understand the relationship between health and environment; and

  • interpret data and prepare technical summaries and reports.

An article on the process and the new definitions was published in the October 2013 issue of the Journal of Environmental Health. View article.

What is your opinion of the new definitions? How will you use them? Will they be helpful to you when you communicate with the public? Please share your thoughts via any of the following three methods:


Previous Definition of Environmental Health

Environmental health and protection refer to protection against environmental factors that may adversely impact human health or the ecological balances essential to long-term human health and environmental quality, whether in the natural or man-made environment.


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