New Study Identifies Needs for Advancing the Environmental Health Profession

February 27, 2020

Media Contact: Terry Goodrich, Baylor University Media and Public Relations, 254-710-3321
Follow us on Twitter: @BaylorUMedia

WACO, TX (Feb. 27, 2020) – American Journal of Public Health has published a new article, “Identifying Needs for Advancing the Profession and Workforce in Environmental Health,” which aims to identify priority challenges and related research needs to catalyze effective delivery of essential environmental health services for common environmental health program areas in U.S. health departments.

The article explores new findings and builds on the innovative Understanding the Needs, Challenges, Opportunities, Vision, and Emerging Roles in Environmental Health (UNCOVER EH) Initiative.

The National Environmental Health Association (NEHA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Baylor University partnered on the unprecedented UNCOVER EH initiative in 2017. UNCOVER EH collected information from more than 1,700 environmental health professionals in health departments across the nation. The initiative sought to assess and improve the profession and practice of environmental health.

Environmental health professionals are positioned strategically to identify and intervene to help prevent public health threats affecting local communities. As such, they represent a critical segment of the public health workforce. The authors adopted a horizon scanning approach to thematically analyze the survey responses and held facilitated focus groups to gather input from environmental health professionals working at health departments about their practice, work and challenges.

Environmental health professionals reported challenges in the following six areas that affect their ability to deliver essential services in their community:


  • Effective leadership
  • Workforce development
  • Equipment and technology
  • Information systems and data
  • Garnering support
  • Partnerships and collaboration

Addressing these challenges through collaborative efforts for developing guidance ad tools, delivering training and conducting research can build a stronger environmental health workforce for the future.

“Environmental health professionals work tirelessly to protect the health of our families, friends and neighbors, but an understanding of the major topics affecting their practice and various resource needs to advance the delivery of essential environmental public health services has remained elusive,” said Bryan W. Brooks, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Environmental Science and Biomedical Studies at Baylor University. “This timely and critically important article provides a sobering message and lights a path for strengthening the environmental health workforce to protect the nation’s health and respond to future public health threats.”

“As the sun rises, it warms and nurtures the earth and all that occupy it,” said David Dyjack, Ph.D., executive director of NEHA. “Likewise, this research effort shares new insights and imbues the profession with optimism that it can tackle profoundly important challenges germane to the health of everyone, everywhere.”

Learn about the challenges and recommendations for the environmental health workforce in more detail in the full published article on the American Journal of Public Health website.

Additional resources for the article include a visual abstract on the UNCOVER EH website, which provides descriptive findings from the article. Previously published work on UNCOVER EH highlighting the demographics, characteristics, education and training, practice areas and aspects of leadership and satisfaction among the environmental health workforce can be accessed here on the UNCOVER EH website.

Based on the critical role played by the environmental health workforce, it is important to understand the challenges and the research needed to advance environmental health practice in the future. Comprehensive studies like UNCOVER EH provide a landscape view of the practice that informs workforce development opportunities and needs to support the progression of the profession. Findings from this newly published article offer a path for advancing environmental health practice in the United States.


The National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) was established in 1937 to advance the environmental health professional for the purpose of providing a healthful environmental for all. Currently serving over 6,000 members, NEHA empowers and educates these professionals, providing the tools and resources they need to make the greatest contributions possible in creating healthy environments that we all seek.


Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 17,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 90 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.