2019 NCCEH Year in Review

Dec 12, 2019

As we reflect back on 2019 it is our pleasure to recount highlights of some of our NCCEH work in 2019. We continue to focus on built environment, climate-related public health impacts, emergency preparedness and response, and other environmental health areas, and our team produced knowledge products, shared information at conferences, meetings, and webinars and curated resources from external sources.

Health equity and environmental health practice

At the start of the year we shared the results of our collaboration with the BC Centre for Disease Control, the Equity in Environmental Public Health Workshop Toolkit. Three ready-made sessions focus on (1) Introduction to health equity, (2) Health equity knowledge to action, and (3) Organizational capacity for health equity action. The Workshop Toolkit also provides guidance and customizable materials to create training sessions to meet public health organization’s specific objectives. Also freely available and useful as training materials is a set of videos that use plain language to illustrate health equity concepts and issues commonly encountered in EPH practice. More resources can be found on the Health Equity topic page.

First Nations and environmental health

We continue to ensure that our work addresses the needs of First Nations across Canada. Through a secondment partnership with the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) we examined the issue of Indigenous Food Safety and Security and climate-related adaptive practices undertaken by FN communities (view webinar here). We also assembled a list of resources on our Indigenous Disaster Response topic page and highlighted considerations pertaining to supporting Indigenous communities in environmental public health emergencies.

We shared training opportunities for drinking water systems operators in First Nation communities on our blog

Drinking water

The NCCEH continues to support our stakeholders in understanding the current evidence on a range of drinking water issues, as well as emerging topics. Our blog posts on Cyanobacteria, PFAS, and updates to Canadian Drinking Water Guidelines highlight recent changes in Canada. Our work on Cyanobacteria looked at current practice and wider knowledge gaps related to cyanotoxins in drinking water. A recording of an accompanying webinar can be viewed here. Our LinkedIn group is providing a forum for interested parties to share information and interact.

Earlier in 2019 and timed to the release of Health Canada’s new guideline for lead in drinking water, which reduced from 10 ug/L to 5 ug/L as the maximum allowable concentration, we published our Testing for Lead in School Drinking Water: A Comparison of Sampling Protocols document on four Canadian sampling protocols and two from US government agencies. The review highlighted important considerations for designing and undertaking sampling programs as applicable to schools and childcare facilities that are not in use throughout the year but may face the issue of stagnant water in lead service lines and on-premise plumbing components.

When a disaster threatens the integrity of safe drinking water, it is useful to refer to our new Finding safe drinking water in an emergency animated video. The short format is intended to be engaging and quick to get key messages across to viewers.

Resource development and social determinants of health

In April 2019 we featured the topic of resource development and considerations of social determinants of health. We invited colleagues from the British Columbia Northern Health’s Office of Health and Resource Development to share their views on the Paradox of Wealth and Health, and also presented a webinar on this topic. Our 2016 evidence review on Understanding the Public Health Implications Concerning Shale Gas Production and Hydraulic Fracturing and an article published in Environmental Health Review (Addressing Uncertainty in Public Health Risks Due to Hydraulic Fracturing) are popular reads.

Extreme heat, wildfires, flooding, and emergency response and preparedness

We published resources on Public Health Planning for Wildfire Smoke. The latter is a follow up document to the 2018 publication, Public Health Responses to Wildfire Smoke Events. These and other Wildfire Smoke and Health resources and references are presented in our curated topic page. New for 2019 is a collated listing of resources on

Psychosocial impacts: resources for mitigation, response and recovery. NCCEH, as a co-chair and core member of the CanDR2 Network, continued to work collaboratively with other Network members toward improving disaster health outcomes and resilience through data and research. In October we featured a webinar presented by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (a CanDR2 Network member organization) on lessons learned from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the importance of research concerning disaster response toward improving community resilience.

Urban flooding can lead to mass evacuations, significant property damage, and threats to lives and safety. We shared resources on Floods: Prevention, Preparedness, Response and Recovery and will update these resources on a regular basis.

This year Canada has also faced a high number of extreme heat events in many places. Public health professionals are called to conduct situational assessments and to implement health protection measures. Our topic page on Extreme Heat and our short animated video called Extreme heat can be a killer continue to be popular.

We identified a Rising concern of tick-borne disease in Canada and invited eTick.ca to write a guest blog that describes a citizen science project that supports monitoring of ticks in Canada by submitting tick photos for identification.

Healthy built environment and connecting with planners

Our Healthy Built Environment (HBE) Online Forum remains active and useful as a national platform for networking and sharing of resources. At this year’s Canadian Public Health Association’s annual conference, we presented a symposium on Building a collaborative environment: Bridging disciplines of public health and planning. The positive impact when public health collaborates with planning was further showcased at the Ontario Professional Planner Institute’s 2019 annual conference, where NCCEH moderated a panel discussion on the HBE Ontario framework for healthy community design through a Locally Driven Collaborative Project  at Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit and Public Health Ontario.

This year we presented the results of the national scan of the needs and gaps on health impact assessment (HIA) amongst public health professionals in Canada in a report and we collated a collection of HIA resources here.  A blog written by an NCCHPP colleague illustrated how HIA is useful for decision making in planning through a case study of its use in Quebec City.

Cannabis: Growing safely at home

Following the historical legalization of cannabis in Canada in fall 2018, the NCCEH set out to support public health professionals through the provision of a resource page on Cannabis Resources for Environmental Health Practitioners.  We also produced Growing Cannabis safely at home, an animated video in plain language that is as useful public health professionals as to members of the public. We featured the topic of cannabis edibles in recent webinars through our NCCEH Seminar Series. Both seminars filled to maximum capacity on our online platform within three days of event promotion. We also highlighted how poison control centre calls could yield cannabis poisoning information.

Invisible radon, visible action

Supporting public health professionals in reducing the burden of lung cancer , the NCCEH created knowledge products including a resource page, the Radon: Public health and cancer prevention video and an article co-published with the First Nations Health Authority called Experiences with BC First Nations community-based radon testing: Successes and lessons learned

Looking ahead with 2020 vision

In the coming year the NCCEH team will continue to support innovative and effective environmental public health practice in Canada through informed evidence review, program and practice assessment.  We will foster linkages through partnerships and collaborations as this is an important core mandate of the NCCEH.  In particular, we will work to strengthen existing partnerships with the Public Health Agency of Canada, all levels of government, our fellow NCCs, and stakeholders in and outside of public health.

We will also continue to help build capacity in the Canadian public health workforce through offering of learning opportunities via our NCCEH Seminar Series, the HBE Forum Webinar Series, and free, online, self-paced courses such as the Ready-to-Eat Meats: Assessing the Food Safety Risks and our new Mould Investigation online course that will launch in early 2020.

The NCCEH team is keen to work with and hear from public health professionals and those in other sectors that share our mission to leverage evidence-informed decision making toward a healthy, equitable, and prosperous Canada. Please take a moment to send us your feedback. We appreciate it!

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