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The 2022 Year Ahead in Government Affairs at NEHA

January 10, 2022 

The NEHA Government Affairs program had a successful 2021 and we're planning for even more success in 2022.

2022 will provide new challenges in government affairs. Being the foremost association advocating for environmental health, NEHA is in a unique role. Many associations advocate for public health, and several for the environment, but only NEHA advocates for environmental health—those environmental threats that affect human health. And NEHA is one of the few associations that advocates at both federal and state levels, especially since almost 95% of funding for environmental health comes from state and local sources.

But NEHA will remain an active voice before Congress and the White House. Some of the activities the NEHA Government Affairs program plans for in 2022 includes:

  • Working with the Congressional Public Health Caucus and NSF International to organize a congressional briefing on food safety for congressional staff.
  • Hosting a congressional site visit on food safety through a tour of a Publix Market in Northern Virginia with the office of Representative Rob Wittman (VI-R).
  • Holding a Hill Day for the NEHA board in March to promote environmental health and the Food and Drug Administration budget before members of the Congressional Appropriations Committee, as well as highlighting NEHA before congressional appropriators.
  • Promoting the Environmental Health Workforce Act (H.R. 2661), Public Health Workforce Loan Forgiveness Program (H.B. 3297), Public Health Infrastructure Save Lives Act (S. 674), and Test Your Well Water Act.
  • Tracking and responding to state legislation on the foremost environmental health concerns, including food freedom, environmental health credentialing and licensing, body art, food safety, private wells, septic systems, and threats to environmental health programs.
  • Providing states with the Food Code Collaborative Toolkit to assist in efforts to update their food codes.

These efforts align with the NEHA Strategic Plan to promote environmental health and highlight the profession before policy makers at federal, state, and local levels. Each of these planned events is designed to advance the profession, one that is unknown to many elected officials. The basic elements of the profession—that it protects the public from environmental threats; saves both the public and private sectors from millions of dollars in lost workdays and excess illness; and is a professional, credentialed profession that requires a trained and educated workforce—is unknown to most policy makers.

NEHA's Government Affairs program is dedicated to advancing the profession before policy makers at federal, state, and local levels. The environmental health profession is funded primarily at state and local levels with the profession receiving only 5% of its funding and support from the federal government. Most public health associations focus their efforts solely on Congress and the White House, spending none of their time on state and local governments. NEHA actively engages with state and local governments, as well as federal officials, to ensure that the environmental health profession is recognized and supported at all levels of government.

In cooperation with members of the NEHA board, NEHA Policies and Bylaws Committee, the many public health and environmental associations NEHA works with, our federal environmental health partners, and the NEHA staff who provide needed support, the NEHA Government Affairs program will make environmental health known to and supported by policy makers.

NEHA intends to bring environmental health out of the shadows and the goal of the Government Affairs program in 2022 is to make environmental health important to federal, state, and local officials.

For more information on NEHA Government Affairs, please contact Doug Farquhar at dfarquhar@neha.org.

Doug Farquhar is the director of Government Affairs at the National Environmental Health Association in Denver, Colorado.