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2021 Year in Government Affairs

Date posted: Monday, January 10, 2022
Blog poster: Doug Farquhar, JD

I've completed my first full year as director of Government Affairs for NEHA and, as such, would like to list the accomplishments of the program in 2021.

This endeavor is more than self-aggrandizement. This work is not only of the program but also the NEHA board members, members of the NEHA Policies and Bylaws Committee, the many public health associations NEHA works with, our federal environmental health partners, and the NEHA staff who provided much needed support to make government affairs happen.

All of us working together made government affairs work at NEHA. Each of us had a role and we accomplished much over the past 12 months.

So, on behalf of the members of NEHA and the environmental health workforce, NEHA Government Affairs would like to share the following highlights:

  • NEHA adopted 12 new policy statements for a total of 18 current policy statements now available via the NEHA website.
  • NEHA issued 8 new position statements.
  • These policy statements gave direction for NEHA to sign-on to 20 letters to Congress and the Biden Administration in 2021.
  • The policy statements led to NEHA supporting 5 congressional bills and one congressional resolution in 2021.
  • NEHA got Congress to thank the environmental health workforce via the Congressional Public Health Thank You resolution (H.R. 62).
  • NEHA sent a letter to the White House and Congress regarding the inclusion of the environmental health workforce in the $7.4 billion effort to rebuild the public health workforce.
  • NEHA sent 33 testimonials to state legislatures regarding state bills on cottage foods, food freedom, natural disasters, and the importance of credentialing the environmental health workforce.
  • The NEHA board visited virtually 44 congressional offices, meeting with 102 congressional staff and 1 congressperson to support funding the environmental health workforce and federal environmental health agencies.
  • NEHA Government Affairs posted 12 blogs and hosted 3 webinars in 2021, keeping the association apprised of public affairs.

To highlight a few of these efforts:

NEHA worked with Representative Rob Wittman's office (VA-R) to include the environmental health workforce as part of Congressional Public Health Caucus resolution (H.R. 62) thanking the public health workforce during the coronavirus pandemic. Wittman is the Republican cochair of the caucus and a former credentialed registered environmental health specialist (REHS). His office acknowledged that environmental health is a key component of the public health workforce and included it in their drafting of the resolution.

NEHA also held a webinar on the Environmental Health Workforce Act (H.R. 2661) featuring Representative Brenda Lawrence (MI-D). Lawrence and NEHA Executive Director Dr. David Dyjack spoke on the importance of the environmental health workforce and the need for a nationally recognized credentialing for environmental health.

NEHA also made a forceful effort to preserve environmental health credentialing in West Virginia. An effort emerged in the West Virginia legislature to eliminate the requirement for the REHS credential (H.B. 3248) and the state's Board of Sanitarians (H.B. 3036). In cooperation with the state's NEHA affiliate, NEHA provided testimony reinforcing the need for a credentialed environmental health workforce.

NEHA was the foremost advocate in the fight against food freedom and cottage foods laws in the states. In 21 states, NEHA provided testimony supporting the role of the food safety regulators, stating facts on how these regulators save the public from foodborne outbreaks. To every legislative committee member reviewing a cottage food bill, NEHA was able to highlight the importance of food safety and the environmental health workforce. The association was also able to promote its identify before these legislators.

NEHA also worked with its partner associations—Association of Food and Drug Officials, American Lung Association, Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, American Public Health Association, Association of Public Health Laboratories, National Association of County and City Health Officials, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, National Center for Healthy Housing—to promote the environmental health workforce. NEHA participated in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Coalition, a group of associations promoting the CDC before Congress and the Biden Administration. NEHA also reached out to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) partners to strategize on how best to promote FDA's food safety efforts before Congress and the Biden Administration.

NEHA Government Affairs plans on an ambitious 2022 program, with an environmental health site visit with members of Congress, a continued effort to reach out to state legislatures on environmental health concerns, more interactions with Congress at NEHA's Hill Day, and further work with NEHA partners to promote environmental health before Congress and the Biden Administration.

About blog poster: Doug Farquhar is the director of Government Affairs at the NEHA in Denver, Colorado.