How can Environmental Health Practitioners contribute to ensure population safety and health during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Matilde A. Rodrigues*, Manuela V. Silva, Nicole A. Errett, Gayle Davis, Zena Lynch, Surindar Dhesi, Toni Hannelly, Graeme Mitchell, David Dyjack, Kirstin E. Ross

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the relevance of public health professionals all over the world, in particular Environmental Health Practitioners (EHPs), who played a major role in the containment of the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. However, as in past disasters, their involvement was oriented towards urgent tasks, and did not fully utilize EHPs’ competences and skills. Additionally, due to limited resources, during emergencies EHPs may temporarily transition away from their day-to-day role, potentially increasing other public health and safety risk factors without appropriate surveillance or intervention. To overcome this and prepare for possible future pandemics, it is important to identify and discuss the key roles of EHPs in different countries, providing a common framework for practices that can contribute to population safety and health. To this end, an international workgroup was established to discuss current environmental health practices and challenges across different countries during the pandemic. Findings from discussions concluded that, despite the observed differences across the countries, EHPs are one of the main public health emergency preparedness and response actors. However, since resources are still lagging significantly behind need, we argue that the role of these professionals during pandemics should be focused on practices that have higher impact to support population health and safety.
Original languageEnglish
Article number105136
Number of pages5
JournalSafety Science
Early online date26 Dec 2020
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We want to thank the national associations that provided essential information, in particular Associação Portuguesa de Saúde Ambiental (APSAi), Environmental Health Australia (EHA) and the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) (US). Additionally, we want to thank the other academics and EHPs involved in discussions, in particular Helen Psarras (Environmental Health Australia), Lindsay Shaw (Ulster University), Sara Boyd (Technological University Dublin) and Kristie Denbrock (NEHA). Matilde A. Rodrigues has been supported by FCT – Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (Portugal) within the R&D Units Project Scope: UIDB/00319/2020 and UIDB/05210/2020.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier Ltd


  • Environmental Health
  • Emergency
  • Pandemic
  • Population safety
  • Public Health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Building and Construction
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Safety Research
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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