DENVER – Environmental health is a fact-based profession. We are professionals who search for evidence, for facts, for trends, to support informed decisions related to public health issues. Being fact-finders is to be on a journey of discovery.
I point this out as we at the National Environmental Health Association continue our practice of inviting the secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to speak at our Annual Education Conference (AEC) next week in Anaheim. Some have criticized Dr. Ben Carson’s attendance and opening address. I’d like to address this criticism.
Every two years our annual meeting is convened in partnership with HUD. Two years ago, Julian Castro, HUD secretary for President Obama, spoke at the AEC. We open this opportunity to speak to AEC attendees on issues germane to the profession regardless of the political party or agenda of the Administration.
NEHA’s relationship with HUD is an important one. HUD provides funds to state and local governments to develop cost-effective ways to reduce lead-based paint hazards, and other risks associated with the built environment. Our partnership leverages both organizations on behalf of national health and safety. NEHA is a non-profit and by law a bipartisan organization. The presence of a political appointee at our AEC is not to be construed as a NEHA endorsement. AEC speakers’ political beliefs and ideology are their own. The purpose of the AEC is to provide an opportunity to engage in a full and spirited dialogue on environmental health issues.
NEHA represents environmental health professionals regardless of their political beliefs. Our members come from all walks of life and likely represent the entire political spectrum. We intend to be an inclusive association that respects the full menu of perspectives on issues of national and global health, safety, and security. The NEHA organization is committed to the notion that while we may disagree with someone’s political viewpoint, we can and will treat them with respect and listen to their case. Next week we have an opportunity to do just that, out of respect for both the office but also because as scientists, we cannot make a pre-determination without examining facts.
The lens of the world will be on us next week in Anaheim. I for one intend to demonstrate what I know to be true: NEHA’s tent is big enough for everyone. We can gather information (in this case, listen) before making judgment. I take comfort that we share a common goal of ensuring every American reaches their full potential by living in an environment that maximizes wellness.
David T. Dyjack, Dr.PH, CIH
Executive Director & CEO
National Environmental Health Association
720 S. Colorado Boulevard
Denver, CO 80246-1926