Category Archives: environmental health

Understanding the Changing Public Health Landscape: Findings from the 2017 Forces of Change Survey

The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) has released its 2017 Forces of Change report, The Changing Public Health Landscape, containing new findings on the forces that are affecting the nation’s local health departments (LHDs). LHDs face both challenges and opportunities as the public health environment evolves, and the Forces of Change survey helps to identify infrastructure gaps, as well as strategies for strengthening public health capacity. Continue reading

NACCHO Partners with the EPA to Advance Environmental Health at the Local Level

epa-mou-group-cropped-293x300By Anastasia Sonneman, NACCHO Communications Specialist

This story originally ran in NACCHO’s Essential Elements blog.

The first month of 2017 marked the beginning of a very exciting and timely collaboration, between NACCHO and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Dr. Thomas Burke, EPA Senior Advisor and Deputy Assistant Director for the Office of Research and Development, hosted NACCHO leadership at the agency’s Washington, D.C.-based headquarters to sign on to a Memorandum of Agreement (MOU), committing to join EPA efforts to advance environmental health, particularly with a focus on local communities and public health. Continue reading

A Look Back: The Best of NACCHO Preparedness

prep-highlights

By Anastasia Sonneman, NACCHO Communications Specialist

This story originally ran on NACCHO’s Preparedness Brief.

The year 2016 brought a whole new meaning to the importance of public health emergency preparedness. From the onset of Zika virus disease to international acts of violence related to terrorism, to the worst global migrant crisis since World War II, NACCHO has worked diligently in collaboration with many of its members and partners to enhance the capacity of local health departments (LHDs) to protect and increase the resiliency of their communities. As we enter the new year, many of NACCHO’s preparedness-related projects can still serve as a valuable resource to local preparedness staff. With this in mind, the NACCHO Preparedness team compiled the following list, highlighting a selection of the year’s featured programs, events, resources, and tools. Continue reading

Earth Day 2016: Addressing the Health Effects of Climate Change at the Local Level

By LaMar Hasbrouck, MD, MPH, Executive Director, NACCHO

Celebrating Earth Day provides an opportunity for local health department (LHD) leaders and staff to reflect on and plan for the health effects of climate change. Climate change is already having global impacts; LHDs are on the front lines of ensuring the health and safety of their communities and will face a plethora of local-level challenges brought on by climate change in the future.

Climate change will significantly impact the health of communities. The World Health Organization estimates that between 2030 and 2050, climate change will cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year.1 Climate change is predicted to bring about an increase in heat-related illnesses; poorer air quality; an increase in droughts, forest fires, and brush fires; and more frequent and intense storms and floods. It will also affect issues such as food security and water-, food-, and insect-borne diseases. Continue reading

DOH-Orange Partners with Hospitals to Conduct Specimen Collection and Testing for Zika Virus

zikaThe following post was originally published on NACCHO’s Healthy People, Healthy Places blog. For more information about environmental health and infectious disease, visit http://essentialelements.naccho.org/.

As local health departments prepare for cases of Zika in their communities, creative solutions and partnerships are necessary to control the spread of the virus. With recent outbreaks of Zika in the Americas, the number of Zika cases will increase and imported cases could result in local spread of the virus in some areas of the United States.

In the following interview, Sarah D. Matthews, MPH, Epidemiology Department Program Manager at the Florida Department of Health in Orange County (DOH-Orange), shares how her health department is engaging in a public-private partnership to test for suspected Zika virus cases. Thanks to existing partnerships with Florida Hospital and Orlando Health Systems, DOH-Orange has been able to build the capability to support medical providers with resources to facilitate the collection and shipping of appropriate specimens to the state’s lab for Zika virus testing.

Q: How does DOH-Orange collaborate with hospitals during the specimen collection and testing process for Zika?

A: Since Florida receives a lot of travelers from Zika-affected countries, on Feb. 3 our Governor Rick Scott directed the State Surgeon General to declare a public health emergency for the counties of residents with travel-associated cases of Zika. Continue reading

The Lead Contamination Crisis in Flint, Michigan: A Joint Statement from NACCHO and ASTHO

The lead poisoning crisis in Flint, Michigan touches on almost every aspect in the daily life of a health department: lead poisoning, water quality, health equity, reproductive health, and other social, political, and environmental impacts. This crisis underscores the basic fundamental need to have safe food, air, and water.

As always, the role of our health departments is to promote and protect the health and well-being of all people in their communities. The National Association of County & City Health Officials and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, alongside our federal partners, support our colleagues in Genesee County and the state of Michigan.  We will continue to update our members about further developments and opportunities to assist with the ongoing crisis and help Flint emerge as a strong and resilient community. Together we are working to immediately learn the lessons from this crisis to better inform public health at the local, state, and national level.

Both NACCHO and ASTHO have a history of responding to emerging issues by leveraging our resources, networks, and members to support the needs of local and state public health departments. Both organizations have been actively communicating with local, state, and federal stakeholders. We will coordinate with all of our partners to assist with needed capacity and resources in this crisis, including epidemiology, surveillance, screening, risk communication, education, remediation, long-term recovery, and policy.

Stories from the Field: Food Safety Calendar Educates Entire Community

food-safety-calendar-storyThe following story was submitted to NACCHO’s Stories from the Field website by Jeanne Garbarino from Vineland City (NJ) Health Department on Sept. 17. NACCHO’s Stories from the Field website provides a means for local health departments (LHDs) to share their experiences and demonstrate the value of public health. Stories from the Field can be used to support advocacy, peer learning, and collaboration with state and federal partners. Share your story at http://nacchostories.org.

When the Vineland City Health Department (VCHD) in Vineland, NJ, discovered that a lack of education around proper hand washing was the number one public health offense in the city’s retail food establishments, local health department (LHD) and Food Safety Council staff thought up an unusual solution: let students do the teaching. Through a contest with cash prizes, the department tasked K-12 students to contribute drawings illustrating best practices related to hand washing; the winning art was then published in the VCHD’s inaugural “Serving Safe Food Calendar,” distributed to every retail food establishment in the city.

The calendar project began in 2005, after the VCHD conducted its first risk-factor study with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s voluntary standards program and identified poor personal hygiene as the biggest health issue present in the city’s restaurants. A lack of hand washing spreads the viruses and bacteria that can lead to a number of foodborne illnesses, such as norovirus and salmonella. The LHD wanted to combat this issue in a creative, original way in hopes of gaining more attention from the food service community, and raising a higher level of awareness surrounding hygiene issues. Along with the Food Safety Council, the VCHD began brainstorming education campaigns and someone suggested enlisting local students to draw posters; the idea quickly evolved into a calendar.

The original production focused only on hand washing, but in subsequent years, the VCHD has expanded its focus to also cover proper food temperatures and foodborne illnesses. It isn’t a regular series – in total, the project costs about $4,000, so the department only produces them when funds are available – but when the opportunity arises students, parents, teachers and food service industry workers jump at the chance to take part, whether that means contributing a drawing or just pinning a calendar on a wall. Calendars have since been produced in 2009, 2011, 2012, and 2014. Artwork is selected through a contest that offers 12 winners a $50 Visa gift card and the opportunity to receive their prize during a televised city council meeting. Surprisingly, it’s the brief TV appearance that really drives kids to participate, and not the cash.

To garner enough submissions, the VCHD reached out to local teachers – a challenge in itself, as catching teachers when they weren’t busy was not always achievable – and asked that they promote the contest to their students. Some biology teachers even turned contest participation into a graded classroom assignment; they studied the various foodborne illness that can arise due to improper hand washing or refrigeration and students incorporated their lessons into their drawings. Simple outreach efforts expanded the scope of the VCHD’s original project; students and teachers were able to engage with public health education in a more meaningful way, and came away from the project with a strong personal understanding of the issues.

Once published, every licensed retail food establishment in the city, from top-tier restaurants to coffee carts, receives a copy of the calendar. The VCHD even provides them to the supermarket departments that handle and prepare raw foods. And though there are no established, direct links between calendar production and changed habits, risk factor studies conducted in the nine years since the project began have shown an improvement in personal hygiene practices among the city’s food service professionals. Additionally, VCHD staff have heard anecdotal evidence about community members whose children have taken to monitoring their family’s hand washing habits, or contest winners who now manage restaurants. And, perhaps most poignantly, retail food establishments sing the praises of the calendars and greatly appreciate the educational opportunity they provide.

Despite the clear successes, the calendar project has not been without struggles. Every new production cycle the VCHD undertook illuminated new strategies they needed to follow in order to ensure a useful product. For instance, one of the biggest challenges was timing their initial outreach campaign with a break in teachers’ schedules. If teachers were too busy to deviate from their planned curriculum, the calendars didn’t receive the classroom promotion the VCHD relied on for success. The department has since identified May as the best month to solicit artwork from students and teachers. Another important step was ensuring students had quality information to inform their projects. The VCHD found that it was often necessary to provide resources directly to the teachers; as schools do not typically teach food safety, classrooms really relied on the health department to educate them about proper behaviors.

Any LHDs interested in replicating Vineland’s calendar project, or initiating their own food safety education campaign, should remember the importance of including the whole community in the process. By involving students in the calendar, the VCHD was able to educate children, parents, and teachers in addition to the food service establishments originally targeted. Food safety became education became the whole city’s mission, not just the health department’s.


Read more LHD stories from the field at http://nacchostories.org.