245145 Coming together: Strategic collaboration between environmental health and public health departments for health-promoting built environments

Tuesday, November 1, 2011: 1:10 PM

Heather Kuiper, DrPH MPH , Global Health Access Program, Oakland, CA
Richard J. Jackson, MD MPH , Environmental Health Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles School of Public Health, Los Angeles, CA
Increased recognition of the built environment as an important determinant of chronic disease, health disparity, and degraded environmental conditions comes at a time when the two agencies best-suited for addressing these challenges through built environment interventions environmental health (EH) and public health (PH) have grown apart. The present study evaluated the strategic value and feasibility of augmenting collaboration between environmental and public health for establishing health-promoting built environments and identified opportunities and challenges for doing so. It used mixed methods including a survey of 159 (89% participation) health officers, health directors, and environmental health directors from 100% of California's local jurisdictions and 30 qualitative interviews with health officers and environmental health directors. Multivariate linear and logistic regression, and content analysis assessed convergence of environmental and public health leaders built environment-related opinions and practices. Leaders from both fields reported compatible views on built environment-related state legislation, policy vision, and the value of built environment-related health strategies, with small variation on positive attitude toward it (scoring 35 (PH) and 31 (EH) on a 40-point scale, p<.05). Leaders viewed land use and transportation interventions as a shared responsibility, scoring 5.7 on a 1-10 scale with 1 holding all responsibility in EH and 10 in PH. An inventory of built environment-related activities and resources disclosed that the two fields have little overlap but are highly complementary. PH reported EH colleagues providing access to land use processes, and EH more frequently reported constructive relationships with a full spectrum of land use professionals (95% versus 50%, p<.05). Conceptual, cultural, procedural, and territorial challenges were identified and characterized, but many felt these were surmountable. Environmental health and public health have complementary roles, resources, and relationships that, if aligned, can increase both fields' health-related impacts on the built environment.

Learning Areas:
Administration, management, leadership
Chronic disease management and prevention
Environmental health sciences
Other professions or practice related to public health

Learning Objectives:
1) Compare the roles, resources, and outlooks of environmental health departments and public health departments related to influencing the built environment for health. 2) Describe four strategic opportunities for environmental health and public health synergy and collaboration for more effective influence on land use and transportation development to promote health built environments. 3) Identify three challenges to collaboration between environmental health and public health. 4) Describe three strategies for surmounting these challenges.

Keywords: Collaboration, Environmental Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am qualified because I was the chief investigator on this research project and have a doctoral degree in the related material.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.