Weekly ColumnsYour Environment, Your Responsibility

Your Environment, Your Health

by: - August 5, 2015
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Welcome readers!

What is going to make this a good column? I feel that I should prepare you because you may be expecting something different from the Environmental Health Department (EHD)! “With great power comes great responsibility. “( Taken from the movie “Spiderman”). This includes the responsibility to share knowledge far and wide. And, why not? LESPWI PAKA WESTAY AN YON SEL TET (Patois proverb). Translation: Where there is discussion and dissemination of information, wisdom will prevail. (At least that is my interpretation of the old saying!)

The EHD is happy to inform you that this will be a monthly column which will give you a connection to us. It will give you insight into the accomplishments of the department, ongoing activities as well as plans for the future.

In this issue I will give you an introduction to the work of the department through reflection on its mission statement as well as on the main programe areas it is responsible for.

How deeply a verse can move you? Please take a minute and read the next few lines.

Mission Statement: “To undertake the necessary measures to ensure the physical, biological, and chemical hazards in the environment are controlled so as to enhance public health and safety. Utilizing an intersectoral approach with relevant collaborative stakeholders we will professionally execute our regulatory mandate and foster positive behavioral change through health education and promotion.”

My quote of choice is “foster positive behavioral change”. Yes! That phrase has an amazing ring to it. It gives us the courage to work hard at our various assignments. These are organized into programme areas, keeping in mind that noble purpose- that of fostering behavioural change.

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Programme Areas:
Over the past two decades, in particular, the Environmental Health Department has assumed increasing responsibilities due to modern challenges. I refer here to changes in the global market economy, rapid expansion of tourism, growth in national food industries, as well as the emergence of new communicable illnesses such as Ebola, SARS and cholera, among others. [ I know that you would likely be concerned about vector borne illnesses. One of these is Dengue fever which is endemic (i.e. occurs every rainy season or whenever breeding of Aedes Egypti is high). Chikungunya is also spread by mosquitoes of the genus Aedes. Leptospirosis remains a problem and malaria still threatens.] As a result the Environmental Health Officers are required to multitask more than ever before. We are educators, marketers, managers, technical advisors, researchers and coordinators.

Environmental health concerns include:
• Air quality, including both ambient outdoor air and indoor air quality, which also comprises concerns about environmental tobacco smoke.
• Body art safety, including tattooing, body piercing and permanent cosmetics.
• Climate change and its effects on health.
• Disaster preparedness and response.
• Food safety, including in agriculture, transportation, food processing, wholesale and retail distribution and sale.
• Hazardous materials management, including hazardous waste management, contaminated site remediation, the prevention of leaks from underground storage tanks and the prevention of hazardous materials releases to the environment and responses to emergency situations resulting from such releases.
• Housing, including substandard housing abatement and the inspection of jails and prisons.
• Childhood lead poisoning prevention.
• Land use planning, including smart growth.
• Liquid waste disposal, including city waste water treatment plants and on-site waste water disposal systems, such as septic tank systems and chemical toilets.
• Medical waste management and disposal.
• Noise pollution control.
• Occupational health and industrial hygiene.
• Radiological health, including exposure to ionizing radiation from X-rays or radioactive isotopes.
• Recreational water illness prevention, including from swimming pools, spas and ocean and freshwater bathing places.
• Safe drinking water.
• Solid waste management, including landfills, recycling facilities, composting and solid waste transfer stations.
• Toxic chemical exposure whether in consumer products, housing, workplaces, air, water or soil.
• Vector control, including the control of mosquitoes, rodents, flies, cockroaches and other animals that may transmit pathogens.

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These challenges have created a demand for specialized training and dictate the program areas which the department is responsible for. Here is a list of the programme areas, for your consideration.

-Liquid Waste Management
-Water Quality Control
-Environmental Health Legislation
-Solid Waste Management
-Disaster/Emergency Management
-Occupational Health & Safety
-Institutional Hygiene
-Food Safety/Port Health & Safety
-Communicable Disease Surveillance
-Environmental Health Communication/ Information

‘Environmentalists believe that man’s health and survival is intrinsically dependent upon his relationship with the environment. From early times man sought ways and means to manipulate and control his environment in his effort to create or maintain conditions favourable to his work, his recreation, as well as his home activities. In many instances his own efforts militated against his survival – he was not always able to explain what was taking place around him; he was not always able to rationalise his own response to what took place in his environment, but he did respond and in many instances the result was positive.’- Vision Statement On EHD Policy Document.

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I look forward to next month’s column. I hope you enjoyed this one!

Signed: Environmentally Yours