A Legacy of Disseminating Practice-Driven Environmental Health Science to Frontline Public Health Practitioners
Since its inception in 1995, the Journal of Public Health Management & Practice (JPHMP) has played a pivotal role in providing visibility to population-based, practice-driven research and intervention studies.1 In the area of environmental public health, the Journal did much more: from developing special issues highlighting the accomplishments of the National Environmental Public Health Tracking (EPHT) program to seminal publications on the environmental health workforce and organizational capacity. From this information, practitioners at the local, state, and national levels, and indeed globally, can garner answers to complex environmental health questions posed by the communities they serve.
On the basis of a review of more than 90 JPHMP publications related to environmental public health, the Journal's contributions can be categorized into 3 general areas: (1) publications addressing the public health infrastructure; (2) those focusing on the importance of public health's essential capabilities; and (3) the role of environmental health as a transdisciplinary field of science, policy, and practice. Articles in each of these categories exude science translation and data and information dissemination as central themes. Many of the articles demonstrate the collaborative nature of environmental health research and practice through individual and joint authorship between practitioners, academicians, and community leaders in public, private, and non-for-profit sectors.
The Importance of the Public Health Infrastructure in Environmental Public Health Practice
The basic infrastructure components of a sustainable public health home are information and knowledge systems, workforce competency, and organizational capacity.2 Over the years, the JPHMP has published several articles highlighting the accomplishments of the National EPHT program, which culminated in a special issue published in 2017.3–6 The collection, analysis, interpretation, translation, or dissemination of often disparate data and information was one of the central themes of EPHT to enable population-based interventions.6 For example, a noteworthy technological advancement was demonstrated in a publication by Jordan et al7 highlighting the use of a smartphone interface to increase access to environmental health data for practice-based decision making.
In the late 1990s, public health systems research received early visibility with the development of the National Public Health Performance Standards.8 Initial implementation of the standards by several states showed that workforce competency received the lowest scores, prompting the development of a national strategic plan for public health workforce development.9 In 2013, the JPHMP highlighted a special environmental health workforce: employees in public health, environmental, and agricultural laboratories and illustrated gaps in capacity and compensation.10 Together, these publications significantly advance environmental health practice by strengthening the basic public health infrastructure.
A lack of essential capabilities, specifically surveillance, laboratory practice, and epidemiologic investigation, significantly impacts the ability of practitioners to examine the relationship between exposure and disease. Through the creation of the National EPHT program, the first national environmental health surveillance program was developed to address this gap. For example, Beck and Boulton11 identified challenges and opportunities to strengthen environmental health surveillance using state-based laboratory practice. One of the greatest epidemiologic frustrations that public health professionals face is our inability to establish biologic plausibility. While many health conditions of concern are multifactorial in nature, through state EPHT surveillance systems, we are now better equipped with more data and advanced tools for conducting community engaged environmental epidemiologic investigations.12
Role of Environmental Health in Advancing Science, Policy, and Practice
Over the past 25 years, the JPHMP publications on environmental health issues have evolved from a field application approach, such as chemical exposures and foodborne outbreaks, to new and emerging challenges, such as threats from bioterrorism, natural disasters, and climate change. Many of the Journal's publications discuss these new hazards and target the capacity and role of local public health departments.13 Increasing realization that exposures can start at preconception has resulted in expanding the environmental health science base. For example, untargeted analyses (metabolomics) and the overall exposome approach including the adapted public health exposome have transformed our discipline to one that traverses the entire bench-bedside-community continuum.14
Regardless, the public health discipline, one of the Journal's most valuable contributions, has been and continues to be addressing the disproportionate impact on special and health disparate populations. Key to that commitment has been publishing evidence-based frontline successes in translation and dissemination. Many of those articles provide illustrative examples of how population-based science can result in risk reduction. Reciprocally, some publications highlighting gaps in science at the practice level have resulted in broadening the knowledge base in environmental health.15
The Journal also devoted several publications on the relationship between factors associated with the built environment and the prevalence of obesity. Specifically, 2 articles describe the important role policy plays in preventing childhood obesity or promoting active living.16,17 In both instances, built environment-related policies facilitated the implementation of prevention actions and local interventions.
Over the past 25 years, members of the editorial board, reviewers, authors, readers, and most importantly communities can proudly reflect on the Journal's accomplishments in advancing environmental health science, policy, and practice. Together, we have demonstrated how strengthening the basic public health infrastructure, specifically information, data management and dissemination, workforce, and organization capacity, undergirds effective environmental public health practice. Similarly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National EPHT program has illustrated the importance of advancing environmental health at the local and state levels by supporting the essential capabilities of surveillance, laboratory practice, and epidemiologic investigation. Often the vast and broad disciplinary portfolio of environmental health has not always been well understood or often overlooked until a threat emerges. In its 25-year history, the JPHMP has served as an important dissemination channel of just-in-time and just-in-case contemporary population-based environmental science, enabling frontline practitioners, their partners, and communities to unravel complex environmental health questions. Together, we make an unwavering commitment to put environmental public health science at work for our communities in the next 25 years!
1. Novick LF, Moore JB. JPHMP 25th anniversary editorial. J Public Health Manag Pract. 2018;25;1–2.
2. Lichtveld M, Covert H, Sherman M. The Gulf Region Health Outreach Program as a model for strengthening the fragile public health infrastructure. J Public Health Manag Pract. 2017;23:S8–S10.
3. Qualters JR. Fulfilling the vision of Environmental Public Health Tracking. J Public Health Manag Pract. 2015;21:S1–S3.
4. Wallar LE, Sargeant JM, McEwen SA, Mercer NJ, Papadopoulos A. Building data and information capacity in environmental public health: a best-worst scaling experiment. J Public Health Manag Pract. 2018;24(3):e1–e8.
5. Kearney GD, Shehee M, Lyerly HK. Bridging the information gap between health and the environment in North Carolina. J Public Health Manag Pract. 2013;19(5):475–478.
6. Eatman S, Strosnider HM. CDC's National Environmental Public Health Tracking program in action: case studies from state and local health departments. J Public Health Manag Pract. 2017;23:S9–S17.
7. Jordan M, DuClos C, Folsom J, Thomas R. Developing a smartphone interface for the Florida Environmental Public Health Tracking Web portal. J Public Health Manag Pract. 2015;21:S50–S54.
8. Baker EL, Potter MA, Jones DL, et al The public health infrastructure and our nation's health. Annu Rev Public Health. 2005;26:303–318.
9. Lichtveld MY, Cioffi JP. Public health workforce development: progress, challenges, and opportunities. J Public Health Manag Pract. 2003;9(6):443–450.
10. DeBoy JM, Boulton ML, Carpenter DF. Salaries and compensation practices in public health, environmental, and agricultural laboratories: findings from a 2010 national survey. J Public Health Manag Pract. 2013;19(3):199–204.
11. Beck AJ, Boulton ML. Predictors of capacity in public health, environmental, and agricultural laboratories. J Public Health Manag Pract. 2014;20(6):654–661.
12. Yip FY. Environmental Public Health Tracking: from data to action. J Public Health Manag Pract. 2017;23:S1–S3.
13. Carr JL, Sheffield PE, Kinney PL. Preparedness for climate change among local health department officials in New York state: a comparison with national survey results. J Public Health Manag Pract. 2012;18(2):E24–E32.
14. Juarez P, Matthews-Juarez P, Hood D, et al The public health exposome: a population-based, exposure science approach to health disparities research. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2014;11(12):12866.
15. Liburd LC, Ehlinger E, Liao Y, Lichtveld M. Strengthening the science and practice of health equity in public health. J Public Health Manag Pract. 2016;22:S1–S4.
16. Brennan LK, Kemner AL, Donaldson K, Brownson RC. Evaluating the implementation and impact of policy, practice, and environmental changes to prevent childhood obesity in 49 diverse communities. J Public Health Manag Pract. 2015;21:S121–S134.
17. Raja S, Booth J, Norton JT, Crowell B, Gouck J, Bonaro K. Promoting active commuting to school through environmental and policy supports in Buffalo, New York. J Public Health Manag Pract. 2015;21:S110–S115.