Recently, NEHA Executive Director Dr. David Dyjack cowrote a letter to the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) regarding their Science and Technology for DRR in the Context of COVID-19 report. This June 2020 report acknowledges that while COVID-19 is an international public health pandemic, “its underlying factors, vulnerabilities, exposure conditions, and impact go well beyond the health sector.”
The report goes on to state that the “current COVID-19 pandemic requires the global governance system, in particular the United Nations, to work in a coordinated manner in order to provide a more efficient support to countries” highlighting how critical an effective disaster risk reduction (DRR) program is in responding to a disease outbreak.
Dr. Dyjack, along with Dr. Henroy Scarlett, chair of the International Federation of Environmental Health, responded to UNDRR with a letter highlighting that environmental health is profoundly local and the UNDRR should emphasize local conditions. Much of the public health workforce is comprised of environmental health professionals whose diverse missions require innovative responses to public health challenges that intersect with healthcare, public transportation, agriculture, recreation, retail food, education, and long-term childcare.
The letter calls out for the United Nations to recognize the role of the environmental health professional in any COVID-19 response. Efforts to return to a normal state of affairs are predicated on environmental health considerations. UNDRR should provide more clarity and specificity to protect and promote the public’s health in a practical way.
NEHA remains committed in promoting the environmental health profession at the local, state, federal, and international level. This letter to the United Nations emphasizes that NEHA will speak on behalf of the profession to all governments. Anywhere the profession needs support, NEHA will engage to the best of its abilities with those institutions.
Doug Farquhar is the Director of Government Affairs at the National Environmental Health Association in Denver, Colorado.