The National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) fully supports the proposed landmark legislation introduced yesterday by Representative Brenda L. Lawrence (D-MI), and co-sponsored by Representatives Conyers (D-MI), and Kildee (D-MI), the Environmental Health Workforce Act of 2016, H.R. 5543.
Basic necessities for public health such as water quality, food safety, and clean air must be managed by professionals who have the expertise, knowledge, and training to make the best decisions for the health of their communities. This bill will ensure that there is a consistent set of guidelines and standards for the training and education of environmental health professionals across the nation.
"I am proud to introduce H. R. 5543, the Environmental Health Workforce Act of 2016," Rep. Lawrence said. "We learned many valuable lessons from the failures that occurred in Flint, Michigan. I promised to review and make changes to policies affecting environmental emergencies and this legislation does exactly that. It ensures that the workforce responsible for handling environmental and public health issues have the best training and education. I am pleased to introduce this legislation and know that we are one step closer to securing the health and safety of Americans across the nation."
Currently, only 28 states require a credential for environmental health workers.
“Credentialed environmental health practitioners, where they exist, have strong science degrees, routinely partner with the regulated community, and understand cultural sensitivities because they live in the communities in which they serve. These valuable workforce characteristics help ensure a healthy and prosperous society,” said David Dyjack, NEHA executive director and CEO.
“We are thrilled that Reps. Lawrence, Kildee, and Conyers recognize the incredibly important work of environmental health professionals for the health of our nation’s citizens. This legislation will save money, save lives, and protect our children’s future.”
Credentialing serves as verification that a professional has achieved a baseline level of competency and is an impartial, third-party endorsement of an individual’s professional knowledge and practical experience to perform relevant work responsibilities. Since 1937 NEHA has offered a Registered Environmental Health Specialist/Registered Sanitarian (REHS/RS) credential, which defines a set of competencies, evidenced through testing and maintained through continuing education.
Given the diversity and complexity of recent environmental health issues that have been a high priority for public safety – lead contaminated drinking water, food tainted with E. coli, and potential outbreaks of Zika virus, this legislation is a key component to ensuring we have a highly skilled workforce to find the best solutions and protect future generations of Americans.