As we approach the halfway mark of this year, I thought I would reflect on the activities that our Government Affairs department has accomplished so far in 2022.
NEHA remains the foremost advocate for environmental health in the nation, something we have expressed to the Biden Administration, Congress, federal agencies, and state and local governments. We have pressed congressional appropriators to increase the budget of the National Center for Environmental Health within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the food safety budget at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the budget for the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. We have engaged the Senate to include the environmental health workforce within the PREVENT Pandemics Act. We have signed on to 16 letters supporting various environmental health programs within the federal government. We have submitted testimony before state legislatures regarding the NEHA position on raw milk, food freedom, and credentialing.
In short, we have been very busy.
In reviewing the list of activities NEHA proposed in January 2022, here is the status as of June 2022:
- NEHA hosted a congressional site visit on food safety through a tour of a Harris Teeter market in Williamsburg, Virginia, with Representative Rob Wittman (VA-R).
- NEHA held its 5th Annual Hill Day for the NEHA Board of Directors in March 2022 to promote environmental health and the FDA budget before members of the Congressional Appropriations Committee, as well as highlighting NEHA before congressional appropriators. The board met virtually with 37 congressional offices to discuss the environmental health profession, federal funding of environmental health, and inclusion of environmental health within the PREVENT Pandemics Act.
- NEHA leadership met with staff from the office of Senator Patty Murray (WA-D) regarding inclusion of the environmental health workforce within the PREVENT Pandemics Act. NEHA has also reached out to Senator Richard Burr (NC-R) regarding the act.
- NEHA has tracked 3,377 state legislative bills on environmental health, including bills on food safety, drinking water, body art, indoor air quality, and wastewater. NEHA submitted testimony on bills related to raw milk, food freedom, and credentialing before 10 state legislatures.
- NEHA worked with the partners of the Retail Food Safety Regulatory Association Collaborative to support updating the food code used in South Dakota.
There are several activities that NEHA still needs to complete for 2022:
- Working with the Congressional Public Health Caucus and NSF International to organize a congressional briefing on food safety for congressional staff. We are looking to work with the offices of Representative Rob Wittman (VA-R), Representative Dan Kildee (MI-D), or Representative Brenda Lawrence (MI-D) to host this event.
- 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. Most of these bills are being covered by the PREVENT Pandemics Act. Language from the Environmental Health Workforce Act has been added to the House of Representatives appropriations bill. The sponsor of the Test Your Well Water Act may not be returning to Congress next session.
Additional activities NEHA would like to perform in 2022:
- Schedule webinars with Representatives Rob Wittman and Brenda Lawrence on environmental health in Congress, specifically on food safety and the environmental health workforce.
- Reintroduce a congressional resolution on the public health workforce to highlight the contributions of the environmental health workforce.
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 activities are governed by its policy statements that are developed by the NEHA Board of Directors with support from the 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.
For more information on Government Affairs, contact Doug Farquhar at email@example.com.