Aerial view of housing

Volunteer force: EH at large in the community

Practitioners are using their skills to benefit their local communities all over the country.
19 March 2020 , Katie Coyne

Let us know how you are working in your local community by emailing [email protected]

CIEH is compiling a volunteer network – so if you’re keen to help but aren’t sure how yet, get in touch with Gary McFarlane at [email protected]

Grassroots mutual support groups have been cropping up on Facebook, NextDoor and WhatsApp organising food drops and home cooking for vulnerable individuals and those who are self-isolating. And EHPs can lend a hand.

EHP and training consultant Penny Dawson said she has been tracking the virus over the last few weeks and “escalated my response to increase public health awareness”. Dawson has been delivering flyers in her community to connect people who need help with volunteers.

She is currently self-isolating, and added: “I started to deliver flyers and decided the best way to approach the community locally would be by setting up a Facebook page. We now have 101 members in five days. In the last five days I have created systematic public health messages and signposted people to food banks etc. We also now have supporters.

“I am exhausted to be honest and now have to pop out for provisions – operating at social distances with the shops.”

Jessica Tabois, EH officer at Westminster Council, is desperate to help her colleagues and local community. Tabois said she had joined a group in her local areas where she has raised hygiene issues within her local group.

Stephen Battersby, former EHP and CIEH president, was surprised practitioners were not being drafted by the directors of public health to assist. He echoed opinion that food businesses need EHP support right now and suggested that the profession has a moral duty to share their wisdom.

He said: “If you have the knowledge and expertise that can be made available to the community should you sit on your hands? If you think about the ethics of it, do you not have to help?

“There are even simple things we can do – I never would have believed so many people don’t know how to wash their hands. If community groups are delivering, or getting food, or even preparing food for vulnerable people – you don’t want to protect them from coronavirus and then give them food poisoning.”

He argued at the very least, we need to make sure “we don’t make things worse” and look after our own health especially if we are self-isolating or in a vulnerable group.

Battersby added: “It might also worth bearing in mind that if we had the level of testing and tracing contacts that other countries have implement, EHPs would be part of the workforce that could help implement this. In the distant past EHPs were often used as the fieldworkers for the medical officers of health in public health campaigns.”

Luminous cubes

CIEH Leadership Programme

Take your career to the next level with the CIEH Leadership Programme.

Find out more