Opportunities for the Environmental Health Workforce in Health Systems Transformation
Influential thought leaders are advancing the proposition that a minimum package of health services — the menu of services that should be provided everywhere so that people can be healthy anywhere —should be available to every U.S. citizen. While the composition of this “minimum package” has yet to be finalized, I am delighted to report every iteration presents environmental health as foundational. What does this mean to the current and emerging environmental health workforce? Allow me to share some thoughts.
1) Continuously revitalize and burnish your technical credentials. In this time of revolutionary change associated with health care transformation, new job categories have entered the marketplace, some with implications for our profession. Community health workers, home health aides and licensed practical or vocational nurses are now appearing in great regularity in various workforce enumerations. This relatively new cadre of health workers will increasingly rely on our expertise and insight to make informed decisions about their clientele. Let’s recognize their roles in the new public health paradigm, and not try to be them. In other words, if you are an REHS, be a great one. If you are a radiation safety officer, industrial hygienist or environmental epidemiologist, maintain your credibility by being current and proficient in your technical discipline. Our counterparts are telling us they value us and what we do. Let’s not let them down by trying to be something we are not.
2) Practice Porosity. The Health care transformation journey is underway. Some estimates suggest that 15-20 percent of all hospitals will close their doors over the next 10 years. At the same time, Accountable Care Organizations, Accountable Care Communities, health homes and new forms of providing preventive care in support of population health will appear, and disappear. From our position as technical experts, we should do our best to understand the external health care environment and its implications for us and our work. Look for opportunities to professionally contribute to the emerging health promotion and care environment. Those might include Health Impact assessments (HIAs), Community Health Assessments (CHAs), Community Health Improvement Plans (CHIPs) and built environment initiatives, among others. Who are conducting and executing these programs? Your local health department, United Way, federally qualified health centers, and non-profit hospitals, to name a few. Environmental health professionals are essential contributors to these efforts. Look around, anticipate the changes and deliver value in the new paradigm.
3) Ascend to Leadership – Almost a 30 percent of local health officials nationwide are environmental health professionals. Our ability to operate in often highly charged environments necessitate the need for diplomacy, conflict resolution, understanding standards and regulations, and the ability to operate in a politically savvy manner. Congratulations, you have selected a profession that prepares you for leadership.
The public health world is rapidly changing. We have an opportunity to anticipate and contribute to the new landscape. Environmental health is for everyone, everywhere, all the time – more now than ever.
David T. Dyjack, Dr.PH, CIH
Associate Executive Director, Programs
National Association of County and City Health Officials
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Tenure Track Faculty Position
Clinical and Translational Research
Department of Family Medicine and Public Health Sciences and Institute of Environmental Health Sciences: http://iehs.wayne.edu/index.php
Quick Link to apply online:
If you are interested in transdisciplinary and community-driven environmental health research and have an outstanding scholarly environmental and public health track record, come join the recently funded NIEHS/NIH Center for Urban Responses to Environmental Stressors (CURES). CURES’ vision is to contribute to a healthier Detroit through cutting-edge basic and applied community-relevant research. CURES works closely with researchers across Wayne State, as well as the other leading research institutions in Michigan. Through our dedicated transdisciplinary/translational integration team (TRANSIT) we have developed a productive community outreach and engagement core; a working partnership between the CURES research enterprise and Detroit’s urban community. The ultimate goal of CURES research is to benefit human health through the prevention or early detection of environmentally- linked disease.
Is your passion cutting-edge, collaborative, and community-oriented environmental health science/public health research? The Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (IEHS) at Wayne State University (WSU) is a research-intensive organization dedicated to understanding the complex role of environmental exposure in disease development. The IEHS and the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health Sciences are expanding to add another joint tenure-track position for a research scientist who studies the impact of environmental exposure to chemical and non-chemical stressors on environmentally linked diseases. WSU offers state-of-the-art facilities for translational, trans-disciplinary research; excellent mentoring by successful senior scientists; access to collaborations across multiple universities in southeastern Michigan and a collegial environment. The WSU School of Medicine, the Henry Ford Health System, Karmanos Cancer Institute and the University Research Corridor all provide tremendous resources for skilled translational scientists.
• Ph.D. and/or M.D., or equivalent degree in basic biomedical sciences, public health, epidemiology, or occupational/environmental medicine.
• The ability to compete for extramural funding is essential.
• Demonstrated commitment to the integrated field of environmental health science and background in “-omics” technologies (genomics, proteomics, metabolomics), stem cell biology, exposure assessment, epidemiology and/or interdisciplinary research.
For your dedicated service, Wayne State offers a benefits package that includes a generous retirement match: if you contribute 5% of your salary, WSU will contribute 10%. We also offer free tuition for employees and reduced tuition for spouse and children. The health care insurance, vacation and other benefits are also some of the best in the marketplace!
Inquiries/Applicants: Application review and interviews will begin immediately and continue until the position is filled. Applications should be submitted to WSU’s online hiring system, https:// jobs.wayne.edu/applicants/Central?quickFind=198541
For more information, you may contact:
Wayne State University
Professor Bengt B. Arnetz, MD, PhD, MPH, MScEpi
Deputy Director, IEHS and Vice Chair, DFMPHS
Phone: (313) 310-6123
Wayne State University is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.
This is encouraging. There are so many links and synergies to be formed across the social and environmental determinants of health. Environmental health leaders can help drive change towards a "One Health" approach that helps us achieve prevention and early detection of public health risks.
There has been greater recognition of the link between environmental and overall public health in recent years. As climate change -- and its resulting health effects -- becomes a larger issue, more people will make that connection and demand action. The U.S. health system will need to adapt and transform to meet that call to action. For example, there may a need for more environmental health monitoring and surveillance at the local and state level. We will need more trained environmental health workers to meet these needs.
How do you see Environmental Health fitting into the transformation of our health systems?
Have you seen the new National Climate Assessment? What do you think about it?
What are your thoughts on the intersection of environmental health and a healthy community program?
Where do you think environmental health is most effective within a healthy community program?
We need to convince property owners that this is something their tenants will want. If we can give them data showing that most renters -- commercial or residents -- want healthy buildings and are more willing to lease properties that follow such standards, property owners will come on board.
I wonder if gains seem too small - a few dollars off on the energy bill. If people could have a sensory experience which indicated success in changing their household footprint, they may be more excited about more abstract goals. My eye-opening experience was in vermicomposting - a hard sell, a big step, but very direct experience. I take out 1/4 of the trash I used to take out. There is no household garbage smell. After a few weeks I have soil I can use or give to others. It's something to talk about (instead of lower energy bills). When I work on the vermicomposter, I get a little more excited about the difference one person can make. There may be other activities that are easier sells, or work better for larger families, but the immediate, experiential change may be the place to start. Likewise, if something could be done to help a neighbor, or something that was public, people would feel they were a part of something bigger than just their bill, which never feels like enough.
Lastly, working in coalitions with organizations - people can joint groups where the vision is big, but the actions are focused. Again, my experience was in rainwater capture, with applications to greenspace, open space, and water quality. Committing to a group, whose mission is big and clear (but not obsessive) and whose actions are focused and visible takes the think globally act locally to an experiential level.
Thoughts on how to address property owners' concerns? How should we encourage them to prioritize the necessary improvements?
What environmental health activities are you most excited about in 2014? Engaged in any HiAP efforts that promote environmental health priorities?