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Health equity and environmental public health practice: Stories from public health inspectors

Health equity and environmental public health practice: Stories from public health inspectors

By Dianne Oickle Dianne Oickle on March 31, 2016

This past year, we have seen an explosion of interest in how the work of Public Health Inspectors (PHIs; a.k.a. Environmental Health Officers – EHOs) intersects with social determinants of health (SDH) and health equity.  Although addressing these issues has been identified as a priority area for all public health professionals, PHIs have often not been included in discussions about how public health can do this work.  PHIs want to know what they can do to address SDH and health equity within their public health roles, including practical actions that can be taken when facing situations in the community as well as from a broader perspective.  Building on a pilot study report  we released in 2015 with the National Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health (NCCEH) , we want to help them find out.

I have been privileged to meet many PHIs in the past year, and have heard powerful stories of their work in the field to address SDH and health equity.  Included here are three such stories, written by guest bloggers to highlight how they have addressed SDH and health equity in their work, and to celebrate the diverse skills and approaches that environmental public health practitioners can apply to these issues.  Each story represents an example of action that can be taken at a different level of public health practice, and will include links to resources on various topics from our Resource Library.  

Collaborating across sectors to work through jurisdictional challenges

Jamie Moore, CPHI(C) - Environmental Health Officer, Government of Manitoba (Winnipeg)

This story provides an example of how one EHOs actions evolved into an intersectoral approach to address an individual case identified by the community. 

Health equity integrated into organizational practice and community engagement

Vittoria Vecchiarelli, CPHI(C) - Senior Public Health Inspector, Health Protection Division,
Regional Municipality of York

This story describes an inter-departmental strategy within a public health unit as well as the role of community engagement health promotion campaigns as a strategy to address health equity. 

Cross-discipline staff-driven approach to collaborating on food systems 

Raymond Ramdayal, CPHI(C) - Public Health Inspector
Stephanie Oakes, BA, MPP - Toronto Urban Fellow, Research Associate
Toronto Public Health

This story explores the concept of cross-discipline innovation labs to address food security, and describes how PHIs and other disciplines work together to take a systems level approach. 

We would like to hear from you!  What experiences have you had in addressing the SDH and health equity in your environmental health practice?  Please send your stories to Dianne Oickle , Knowledge Translation Specialist and help us share your practice stories. Our colleague Karen Rideout  at the National Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health (NCCEH) will be continuing to collect stories from health protection or PHIs/EHOs who have taken action on SDH or health equity through their work. She would love to hear from you too!

With thanks to our guest bloggers for contributing their stories, and collaborating with us to share them. And thanks also to Karen Rideout at the NCCEH for her support with the vision for these blogs.