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UNCOVER the Environmental Health Workforce: A Visual Abstract

Date posted: Wednesday, December 4, 2019
Blog poster: Madelyn Gustafson
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New Resources UNCOVER Environmental Health Challenges and Research Needs

A newly published article in Environmental Health Perspectives, from a team of researchers at Baylor University, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and National Environmental Health Association (NEHA), examines the challenges and needs in the environmental health workforce. Understanding the Needs, Challenges, Opportunities, Vision, and Emerging Roles in Environmental Health (UNCOVER EH) is a groundbreaking study that describes the environmental health workforce. In "Environmental Health Practice Challenges and Research Needs for U.S. Health Departments," the authors presents results from UNCOVER EH identified through an online survey and in-person focus group interviews of over 1,700 environmental health professionals from health departments across the nation.

To complement the release of the article, the NEHA has designed a visual abstract. A visual abstract is the graphic equivalent to a written abstract. Much like an infographic, it's tailored to be comprehendible by all audiences through visuals, health literate text, and a high-level summary of the article's findings. This visual abstract was unique as we translated qualitative results into a graphic representation. The visual abstract provides a nice complement to the article, conveying the importance of the environmental health workforce, exploring six key challenge areas it's facing, and describing recommendations for environmental health practice.

The environmental health workforce is critical to the public health delivery system. In fact, environmental health is one of the largest segments in the public health workforce, second only to public health nursing. Environmental health professionals have unique and specialized knowledge to diagnose, intervene, and prevent emerging threats.

The primary focus of the workforce is to protect the health of our communities through addressing environmental factors that affect health including air quality, food safety, and vector control. The role of the workforce is of growing importance and the article highlights the continued utility of environmental health professionals as we face emerging environmental health issues in a rapidly changing field.

The article presents six different challenges that environmental health professionals face, which are highlighted in the visual abstract. Thematic analysis of the survey results led to the identification of food safety, vectors and public health pests, healthy homes, wastewater management, drinking water quality, and emerging issues as six primary environmental health topic areas. Having identified these key areas by environmental health professionals, the article additionally shares 4–5 problem statements identified through the focus group discussions for each of the challenge areas. These results can inform future priorities for the field. Results from the key topics and problem statements can inform recommendations for environmental health practice.

Three main topic areas are included in the recommendations, which include training, research, and partnerships. Training focuses on professional credentials, academic preparation, and strategic national training. Research recommends translational science partnerships, nontraditional partnerships, and joint leadership programs. Finally, the article recommends that partnerships highlight strategic research initiatives and integration with existing programs. From the Registered Environmental Health Specialist/Registered Sanitarian credentials to robust science-based education, cross-disciplinary public health leadership programs and translational research teams, these recommendations can better prepare the environmental health workforce.

Through the UNCOVER EH research project, the need and understanding of the environmental health workforce has been identified. This new groundbreaking study was something that had never been done before and the results are essential to advance the needs of the professionals.

Learn More

Explore more UNCOVER EH resources such as a key findings infographic and fact sheets on credentialing and salaries; and, learn about the challenges and recommendations in more detail in the full journal article.
  • Uncovering Environmental Health: An Initial Assessment of the Profession's Health Department Workforce and Practice, Journal of Environmental Health, NEHA | Webpage

Fact sheets

  • Fact sheet: Uncovering Earnings and Education in Environmental Health, NEHA | PDF
  • Fact sheet: Uncovering Environmental Health Credentials, NEHA | PDF
  • UNCOVER EH Key Findings Infographic, CDC | Webpage
  • UNCOVER EH, NEHA | Webpage


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Environmental Health Association, and Baylor University have partnered on the Understanding the Needs, Challenges, Opportunities, Vision, and Emerging Roles in Environmental Health (UNCOVER EH) initiative. UNCOVER EH collected information from more than 1,700 environmental health professionals in health departments across the nation. UNCOVER EH seeks to assess and improve the profession and practice of environmental health.

About the blog poster: Madelyn is currently a project coordinator at the National Environmental Health Association in Denver, Colorado. Her educational background started in public health at the University of Wisconsin–La Crosse and her passion has led her to environmental health. With a wide range of environmental health interests, her main focus is climate and health.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect the policy, endorsement, or action of NEHA or the organization where the author is employed. NEHA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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