On 22 March 2018, DomPrep Advisor Andrew Roszak spoke with Dr. David Dyjack, director of the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA), about the field of environmental health as it relates to disaster response and mitigation as well as overall community resilience. Unlike public health, which specializes in the social and policy realms, the field of environmental health is scientific and technically oriented to ensure that communities are safe from various environmental contaminants and allergens.
Incorporated in 1937, NEHA currently serves 5,000 “boots-on-the-ground” environmental health professionals located across the United States. At the intersection of environmental health and disaster response, these “second responders” minimize risks as people return to their homes and offices following disasters. For example, when flooded superfund sites contaminate drinking wells or hurricanes and floodwaters cause mold contamination, these professionals ensure safe practices for refuse disposal, temporary food kitchens, clean water, emergency shelters, and mass casualty management.
Perhaps the greatest challenge for the environmental health field going forward is the issue of clean water, which can be overlooked until it is not available. Too much or too little water pose problems too. Managing the water supply with an aging water infrastructure requires careful planning to ensure that water is being used effectively, conserved, and protected to combat risks associated with the extremes of flooding and drought. With these and other environmental challenges, a degree in environmental health provides innumerable opportunities in today’s society. “Environmental health is profoundly local,” said Dyjack, and their technical expertise is important at all phases of a disaster.
Learn more about NEHA at www.neha.org or connect directly with Dr. Dyjack on Twitter @dtdyjack.