What Is Environmental Health?
This article was published in the Houston Daily Journal on May 19, 2007.
The Environmental Health Section of the Houston County Health Department is a branch of the Division of Public Health and is part of the Department of Human Resources. We are based in each county health department and not only enforce rules and regulations, but provide many useful services to the public. As environmental health specialists, we help protect against environmental factors that may adversely impact human health or the ecological balances essential to long-term human health and environmental quality, whether in the natural or man-made environment.
Environmentalists are referred to as “health inspectors” and to some we are known as sanitarians. By whatever name we are called, we provide primary prevention through a combination of surveillance, education, enforcement, and assessment programs designed to identify, prevent, and abate the environmental conditions that adversely impact human health. We enforce rules and regulations of the county and the State and provide a variety of services designed to protect the community from potential public and environmental health threats.
There are four levels of Environmental Health Specialists that provide environmental health services in the State of Georgia. Their position classifications vary according to levels of supervisory responsibility and programmatic activities. Environmentalists provide services that are broken into five different mandated programs: on-site sewage (land use), wells, rabies, food service, tourist accommodations, and public swimming pools. In addition, we provide other services such as investigating sources of lead poisoning in children with elevated blood leads, working complaints related to West Nile Virus, and helping to provide safe food and shelter during natural and man-made disasters.
There are other programs that may not be offered in all counties, but many larger health departments throughout the State may also provide services related to indoor air quality, radon and asbestos, and inspection of tattoo and body art studios. We also work with the public regarding general nuisance complaints and provide educational materials and guidance when appropriate. Many times, we will serve as a referral source when the complaint does not fall under our purview of services.
Several years ago, the National Sanitation Foundation International published an aphorism regarding environmental health and sanitation that reads, “Sanitation is a way of life. It is the quality of living that is expressed in the clean home, the clean farm, the clean business and industry, the clean neighborhood, the clean community. Being a way of life, it must come from within the people; it is nourished by knowledge and grows as an obligation and an ideal in human relations.” As environmentalists, we hope that we can foster this ideal through our involvement in the community and through education and, when necessary, enforcement.
Over the course of the next several months, we will be providing information regarding our list of services and offering educational information through a series of articles that we hope you will find useful. The Houston County Health Department also has a website that is under construction with general information such as restaurant scores and copies of the Houston County Health Code. Visit us online!
And as always, if any of our staff can help you, please feel free to call our office at any time.
Submitted by Carla D. Coley
Environmental Health County Manager
Houston County Health Department