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Formulation of National Environmental Health Policy: The Experience of African Countries

Zawide, F

doi: 10.1097/01.ede.0000276435.15305.5f

Independent Consultant, South Africa.


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To strengthen the organizational structure and management of environmental health services and upgrade the technical capacity, capabilities, and competencies of environmental health professionals at national, district, and community levels to address emerging environmental health issues.

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Material and Methods:

Collecting data and reviewing available country reports on health, environment, and socioeconomic conditions; examining the relevance and enforcement of the existing public health acts, regulations, standards, and legislation; conducting interviews with concerned national and local authorities and key environmental health professionals; field visits and consultation with national and international experts; preparing a draft national environmental health policy; and conducting a series of workshops to review the draft policy document until endorsed by all stakeholders.

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Several governmental and nongovernmental organizations are involved in the delivery of environmental health services. Some of the institutional, administrative, and managerial constraints that hamper effective delivery of services were identified to include the marginalization of environmental health by the health authority, lack of coordination and harmonization, limited human and financial resources, outdated legislation and regulations, lack of information and database, lack of motivation of environmental health personnel, lack of equipment and transport, dependency on donor funds, and absence of national environmental health action plan and implementation strategies.

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The African experience proves that the formulation of national environmental health policy should take into account the harmonization, coordination, and decentralization of environmental health services and the removal of existing organizational, managerial, financial, legal, and manpower constraints. The policy should also address emerging environmental health issues and health risks associated with new technologies and socioeconomic development. The role of the sector agencies and the interfaces at district and community levels should be clearly defined.

© 2007 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.