Celebrating World Environmental Health Day: protecting the world I love to explore

28 September 2023, Kristian James CEnvH MPH, Principal Environmental Public Health Specialist, Public Health Wales

The five pillars of Environmental Health

For World Environmental Health Day 2023, we invited members to share their experiences of working in environmental health and what it means to protect public health.

Seeing everyday life behind the scenes

I’m a Chartered Environmental Health Practitioner. I’ve been employed as a Principal Environmental Public Health Specialist at Public Health Wales (PHW) since 2014 having earlier obtained a Master of Public Health. Before joining PHW I worked for several local authorities in Wales as an EHO. I got to manage pollution control, pest control and dog warden teams.

For me one of the biggest attractions to our profession are the diverse opportunities we have to protect our environment and health, whether regulating harmful factory emissions, managing a pest infestation or advising on planning applications. Usually, we end up visiting a myriad of places often seeing everyday life (both good and bad!) ‘behind the scenes’.

Every day is a learning day!

I’ve been a member of a number of all-Wales expert groups on pollution control including environmental permitting, noise and air quality. I would encourage others to join such groups. It will help to keep you informed and to learn from the experience of other EHPs. Also take up opportunities to gain qualifications. Since graduating from Cardiff Met, I’ve obtained diplomas in acoustics, pest control, management and certificates in Health Impact Assessments. Such qualifications provide confidence in your work even when you may find yourself in situations of uncertainty! In fact, given the diversity of our roles, I would say every day is still a learning day!

Now I practice in Environmental Public Health. This is the discipline of identifying, assessing and managing risks linked to environmental hazards that can adversely affect individual and population health.

Environmental hazards come in many forms whether natural or as the result of man-made activities or incidents. They include impacts from extreme weather events and climate change such as drought and wildfires. We may be asked to provide public health advice to a variety of stakeholders from members of the public and EHPs through to Welsh Government.

Helping to create healthy, fair and sustainable environments and communities

Our small team in PHW (part of the NHS) aims to work in an evidence-based way to prevent and minimise exposures to, and resulting in ill-health from, environmental hazards. Together we support the creation of healthy, fair and sustainable environments and communities.

If you would like to learn more about environmental health and becoming an EHP, visit our What is EH? webpage or if you would like to write a blog about your EH experience, please email [email protected].

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