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EH role in COVID-19 work ‘has boosted profile in government’

It’s now up to the profession to speak as one, says EHP at heart of government response.
18 February 2021 , Sarah Campbell

The profile of EH among government departments is higher than it has been in decades, according to an EHP who has been advising central government on the COVID-19 response.

Janet Russell has been working with the Department of Health and Social Care since June 2020, initially helping to link the English Test and Trace system with regional contact tracing infrastructure in Yorkshire and Humber. More recently, she has been focusing on EH capacity issues in English local authorities, including setting up the Environmental Health Together recruitment register.

“One of the areas that kept coming up regionally was, ‘Where can we get more EH officers?’ because the value of EHPs in local government has been recognised by chief executives and politicians. EHPs have suddenly had a light shone on them because they’ve been at the core of working with directors of public health in outbreaks, visiting businesses for COVID compliance and much more,” she said.

“I’ve had more discussions in government departments about EH than I would have ever thought possible. EH is more appreciated and understood at government level than I’ve known in 30 years.”

She said it’s now up to the profession, including CIEH, to take advantage of EH’s moment in the spotlight. She said: “The profession has got to be able to speak as one to have constructive input into future public health work. But if CIEH is ready to respond, which I think it is, then it’s the biggest opportunity we’ve had in as many years as I can remember. I’m very hopeful.”

Read more about Janet Russell and EH Together in the March 2021 issue of EHN (login required), out at the beginning of March.

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