Environmental health is the branch of public health concerned with all aspects of the natural and built environment that may affect human health.
According to the World Health Organization, in its broadest sense, environmental health includes those aspects of human health, disease and injury that are determined or influenced by environmental factors.
Environmental health also refers to the theory and practice of assessing, correcting, controlling and preventing environmental factors that can potentially harm the health of present and future generations.
It should be noted, however, that environmental health addresses all the physical, chemical and biological factors external to a person, and all related factors that affect behavior. It encompasses the assessment and monitoring of environmental factors that may affect health. It aims to prevent disease and create environments conducive to health.
The objects of the Environmental Health Profession are: to assess, correct, control and prevent environmental factors that can potentially harm the health of present and future generations; preserve, protect and improve the quality of life of human beings; control the elements of the environment that cause or may have deleterious effects on the health and well-being of human populations or on food and drink, land, water, atmosphere, shelter and other resources including humanity depends for its survival; prevent and control infectious, communicable and non-communicable diseases that have plagued mankind through the centuries.
Who then is an environmental health officer? an environmental health officer is a person trained in health sciences, biology, chemistry, geology, physics, mathematics, etc. health.
He or she is also a public health professional whose responsibilities may include food safety and security; protection of air, water and the environment; inspection of well water and sewage disposal systems; control of harmful insects and animals; disease control and epidemiology; housing, occupation; and institutional security and sanitation and nuisance control.
According to Article 19 of the Public Health Law of 2012 (Law 851), an environmental health officer is a health professional who participates in health promotion, education and controls activities having negative consequences for the environment, public health and safety. Environmental health officers (EHOs) play an important role at all stages of disaster or pandemic management because of their many and varied areas of expertise.
These health professionals are well positioned to assess the impact of pandemics and disasters on populations and to conduct response assessments because of their population and community orientation and holistic approach to their work in health protection and protection. public safety among the Ghanaian population.
In Ghana, the training and practice of environmental health professionals is regulated by the Allied Health Professions Council of Ghana (AHPC) under the Health Professions Regulatory Bodies Act 2013 (Act 857), and therefore, they are registered and licensed before they can practice as applies to other healthcare professionals.
The main functions and responsibilities of Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) are; they inspect, control and manage sanitation in public places, participate in community environmental sanitation campaigns and public education, educate the public on environmental health issues and regulations, and enforce environmental health laws and policies. These tasks are carried out through a routine inspection of the premises (house to house), education and health promotion activities, installation of domestic latrines for households, supervision of the work of health workers and nursing assistants, market sanitation, inspection of public catering places, for example (restaurant).
Also includes waste management, school health education programs, slaughterhouse and slaughterhouse duties (meat inspection), food safety (inspection of the expiration date of foods such as canned foods), vector control activities such as mosquito control, through disinfestations or fumigations.
It is a known fact that the government prioritizes environmental health (preventive health) through robust budgetary allocations and human resource development (training of qualified and competent environmental health workers) as well as the creation of of an atmosphere conducive to the strict application of environmental sanitation regulations without blatant political interference, will absolutely and definitively ensure good environmental sanitation in our communities, and about ninety percent (90 %) of reasonably preventable environment-related diseases and infections such as malaria, cholera, typhoid and other neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) would be avoided, reduced or eliminated.
Interestingly, research has shown that the top ten (10) nationwide illnesses of our outpatient (OPD) attendance are related to environmental health and sanitation, however, it is mind-boggling and illogical. to transfer these cadres of health professionals from the direct management of the health care delivery system, i.e. from the Ministry of Health to the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD) without the allocation of human and financial resources accompanied as cited in the Environmental Sanitation Policy (MLGRD) (2010), which further crippled the prospects for the environmental health profession and its practice in Ghana.
While the government and its agencies such as the Ministry of Health (MOH) and Ghana Health Service (GHS), development partners (DP), civil society organizations (CSOs), non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the private sector were prioritizing Environmental health, as they currently prioritize curative health, by earmarking funds for the construction of new hospitals, nursing and midwifery training schools, for human resource development and skills of nurses and midwives, Ghana could be free from poor environmental sanitation in our big cities, towns and villages, which has its disastrous effects and consequences on health such as malaria, cholera, typhoid, air pollution and contamination of water bodies by the disposal of liquid waste (faeces).
The old adage that says “Prevention is better than cure” is ironically the opposite in Ghana which says “Cure is better than prevention”, a sad reality.