Environmental health workforce-essential for interdisciplinary solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic

Benjamin J. Ryan, Raymond Swienton, Curt Harris, James J. James

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Interdisciplinary public health solutions are vital for an effective COVID-19 response and recovery. However, there is often a lack of awareness and understanding of the environmental health workforce capabilities. In the United States, this is a foundational function of health departments and is the second largest public health workforce. The primary role is to protect the public from exposures to environmental hazards, disasters and disease outbreaks. More specifically, this includes addressing risks relating to sanitation, drinking water, food safety, vector control and mass gatherings. This profession is also recognized in the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness and Advancing Innovation Act of 2019. Despite this, the entire profession is often not considered an essential service. Rapid integration into COVID-19 activities can easily occur as most are government employees and experienced working in complex and stressful situations. This role, for example, could include working with leaders, businesses, workplaces and churches to safely reopen, and inspections to inform, educate, and empower employers, employees and the public on safe actions. There is now the legislative support, evidence and a window of opportunity to truly enable interdisciplinary public health solutions by mobilizing the entire environmental health workforce to support COVID-19 response, recovery and resilience activities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalDisaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness
StateAccepted/In press - 2020


  • COVID-19
  • Environmental health
  • disasters
  • resilience
  • risk management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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