Definitions of Environmental Health

World Health Organization Inforgraphic on Environmental HealthDefinition of Environmental Health

Environmental health is the science and practice of preventing human injury and illness and promoting well-being by 

  • identifying and evaluating environmental sources and hazardous agents and
  • limiting exposures to hazardous physical, chemical, and biological agents in air, water, soil, food, and other environmental media or settings that may adversely affect human health.

Definition of an Environmental Health Professional or Specialist

An environmental health professional or specialist is a practitioner with appropriate academic education and training and registration or certification to

  • investigate, sample, measure, and assess hazardous environmental agents in various environmental media and settings;
  • recommend and apply protective interventions that control hazards to health;
  • develop, promote, and enforce guidelines, policies, laws, and regulations;
  • develop and provide health communications and educational materials;
  • manage and lead environmental health units within organizations;
  • perform systems analysis;
  • engage community members to understand, address, and resolve problems;
  • review construction and land use plans and make recommendations;
  • interpret research utilizing science and evidence to understand the relationship between health and environment; and
  • interpret data and prepare technical summaries and reports.

Environmental Health Saves Lives, Saves Money, and Protects Your Future Infographic

Investing in an Effective Environmental Health System

Background and Need for Action
Environmental Health is the branch of public health that focuses on the interrelationships between people and their environment, promotes human health and well-being, and fosters healthy and safe communities. 

As a fundamental component of a comprehensive public health system, environmental health works to advance policies and programs to reduce chemical and other environmental exposures in air, water, soil and food to protect residents and provide communities with healthier environments.



New Perspectives on Environmental Health: The Approval of New Definitions
Article from October 2013 issue of the Journal of Environmental Health

NEHA recently approved newly revised definitions of the terms “environmental health” and “environmental health professional” at the July 2013 board of directors meeting in Crystal City, Virginia. The approval was the culmination of a year-long process of reviewing previously published definitions, proposing revisions to the NEHA board of directors, publishing draft definitions for public comment, conducting an opinion survey, incorporating public comment, and final revision.

Read Full Article (PDF)



This piece was submitted by NEHA Region Seven Vice President and Work Group Chairperson John A. Steward, REHS, MPH, on behalf of work group members:

  • Michael Bisesi, PhD, REHS, CIH, Interim Dean, Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Director of the Center for Public Health Practice, Interim Chair and Associate Professor, Division Environmental Health Sciences, Ohio State University;
  • Sandra Long, REHS, NEHA Region Five Vice President;
  • Adam London, RS, MPA, NEHA Region Six Vice President;
  • Carolyn Hester Harvey, PhD, CIH, RS, DAAS, CHMM, NEHA President Elect; and
  • Alicia Enriquez Collins, REHS, NEHA President.