Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Environmental Public Health Professionals (EPHPs) across the country played a critical role in ensuring the health and safety of communities. These individuals are the Health Officers who worked on the frontline to provide education, case and contact tracing, and the enforcement of Public Health Orders. Beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, the routine role of EPHP is much more versatile and their support spans across all corners of the community.
What is the role of the Environmental Public Health Professional?
Environmental Public Health Professionals are also known as Environmental Health Officers (EHO) or Public Health Inspectors (PHI). Their primary role is to protect public health, which includes food safety, drinking and recreation water quality, enteric and zoonotic communicable disease control, personal service establishments, solid and liquid waste, vector control, indoor and outdoor air pollution, and emergency preparedness and response.
Some of the common tasks conducted by Environmental Public Health Professionals range from performing routine inspections across a variety of facilities to investigating complaints from the public as it relates to foodborne illness or pest control. Restaurants, public swimming pools, nail salons, community care facilities, and water supply and waste disposal systems are all premises where EPHPs work.
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A growing demand for Environmental Public Health Professionals
The need for environmental health is everywhere. From public health compliance, consulting, and quality assurance, environmental public health jobs are critical to keeping people safe – day in, day out.
Over the years, the versatility of the role of Environmental Public Health Professionals has expanded to include the healthy built environment – how communities are being planned and built, as well as the impact on physical, mental, and social health.
More recently, as climate change accelerates, the EPHP role has expanded to supporting the health and safety of communities during wildfires, heat waves, poor air quality, and sea levels rising.
Preparing for a career in environmental health
Seulbi Lee was a flight attendant until she was laid off from her job during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was then she decided to utilize her Biology degree and pursue a future-proof career.
“I chose the Environmental Health program at BCIT because I knew a career path as an Environmental Health Officer is not a conventional 9-5 office job. Rather, I will be able to interact with the public in a flexible work environment, just like in my previous job,” shares Seulbi. “On top of that, I will be part of a team that can make a difference in the community by ensuring the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe in, and our surrounding environments are safe for everyone. It will be a fulfilling job where I’ll know I’ll be making a difference, whether small or big.”
The two-year, full-time BCIT Environmental Health (Public Health) program prepares students to enter the field of environmental health as professional, effective members of a multi-disciplinary health team. Students learn in small classes and from instructors who are industry-leaders with firsthand experience in environmental health. Throughout the program, students have access to applied learning experience, consisting of field trips, projects, hands-on activities, and a three-month practicum off-campus at an appropriate health agency. These ensure students have the practical skills and industry knowledge to be job-ready as soon as they graduate.
Many graduates from the program secure employment opportunities with regional health authorities, Health Canada/CFIA, provincial and federal public agencies, or private auditing and quality control companies.
Learn more about the BCIT Environmental Health program or register for an online information session on June 7 from 12-1pm.