A message from Peter Mazey, Acting Manager of Environmental Public Health Services
Each year on Sept. 26, we celebrate World Environmental Health Day and acknowledge the First Nations Health Authority's (FNHA) Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) for the work they support across the province.
This year's World Environmental Health Day is themed Prioritizing Environmental Health for healthier communities in global recovery. This theme is especially timely as the world continues to fight the COVID-19 pandemic alongside several other crises, including the impacts to human health from our changing climate.
The pandemic has demonstrated the vital role that EHOs play in disease prevention within homes, workplaces, schools, and public facilities. The FNHA's EHOs have been pivotal with hands-on safe storage, transportation and deliveries of vaccine, and the staffing of vaccination clinics for First Nation communities across the province. EHOs also provide guidance when developing COVID-19 vaccine safety and hygiene-specific policies.
The Environmental Health workforce deals with all aspects of the natural and built environment, specializing in health promotion, disease prevention and control, and response to public health emergencies. EHOs are responsible for education, inspections, providing advice and recommendations to First Nation's leadership to help them manage public health risks associated with the environment.
This summer brought record-breaking temperatures, with increased droughts and wildfires, all highlighting how climate change is affecting human health.
The FNHA's Environmental Public Health Services (EPHS) staff work with communities to ensure drinking water is safe to consume, sewage systems are functioning properly, houses and community buildings are safe to occupy, and residents have places to go with clean and cool air to breathe.
Climate Change is known to have a disproportionate impact on the health of Indigenous peoples and communities, and this year through the Indigenous Climate Health Action Program (ICHAP) and the We All Take Care of the Harvest (WATCH) Project, FNHA supported more than 30 First Nations in community-driven projects that strengthen the resilience of First Nations people against those impacts.
Another milestone for EPHS this year was the removal of BC's final long-term drinking water advisories. From January through September 2021, 31 Advisories were lifted from within 22 First Nations across the province. Three of these advisories were long-term (in effect for a year or longer). FNHA's EHOs, together with First Nations leaders and our federal and provincial partners, played a vital role in supporting communities to safely lift these advisories.
World Environmental Health Day provides an opportunity to thank FNHA EPHS teams for their dedication to public health over the course of the last year, but we would also like to highlight the importance that environmental health plays in a global context. The connection between the environment and human health demands that we invest in a sustainable and green recovery, with support from the Environmental Health workforce.
To learn more about our EPHS team and what we do, visit the FNHA website at http://www.fnha.ca/what-we-do/environmental-health.