Public health

Environmental health has an important and unique contribution to make to improving public health and reducing health inequalities. The CIEH is working to ensure that this contribution is fully developed and brought to bear, both in support of government policy and in campaigning for necessary additional measures.

We believe that making environmental health concerns heard is essential to the achievement of long-term improvements in the health of the population, in creating and maintaining sustainable communities, and in addressing the health consequences of environmental degradation and global changes in climate, habitat, energy supplies and other key stressors.

Addressing issues of public health and well-being is at the heart of much of the work of the environmental health profession. This work is critically important – while overall life expectancy continues to rise, the inequalities in premature mortality and disability free life expectancy in England are stark, as they are across UK.

In addition to the above, we are working to engage with and influence the government’s key public health bodies and agencies responsible for policy making, regulating and setting standards for public health provision, including the Care Quality Commission and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.

We are also working to ensure that the public health competencies of environmental health practitioners are developed and acknowledged so that they can make their full contribution to joined-up public health workforce.

▼ Public Health Mapping Toolkit 

The Public Health Mapping Toolkit is a learning tool produced by Environmental Health Practitioners for Environmental Health Practitioners but will also be of interest to anyone who wants to learn about health demographics. Produced by Dr James Hunter and Sian Buckley in collaboration with the CIEH, it was funded by the Environmental Health Registration Board and is supported by Public Health England. It is a live document that will be updated in the future.

To access the toolkit, please click here.

▼ Animal Welfare and Control 

Humankind shares a world with animals. The relationship between the two is generally a harmonious one but occasionally problems can occur, both in terms of the impact which  humans can have on animals and from the impact that animals can have on humans. Where such problems occur, both animals and humans need protection.

One problem area is that of diseases which are shared by both animals and humans. Those which can be transmitted from animals to humans are called zoonoses. Many thousands of zoonotic diseases have been identified. While the reported instances of transmission are infrequent, they can cause major illness in some cases.

Local authorities in the UK play a major role in protecting both humans and animals from harm. Animal welfare teams working within local authorities enforce a wide range of legislation, including the Animal Welfare Act 2006, and also provide advice and guidance to businesses, to members of the public, and to others. Many engage in educational activities such as visits to schools.

Their work includes the licensing and inspection of animal related businesses such as pet shops, dog and cat boarding establishments, dog breeding establishments and riding schools. They tackle dog related issues such as stray dogs and dog fouling and they help to ensure that animals are transported safely. Activities involving performing animals are controlled by local authorities and they license premises where dangerous wild animals are kept.

To assist local authorities in carrying out their duties the CIEH has collaborated with many partner organisations and stakeholders at national level on a number of working parties to produce model licence conditions and guidance.

Further information on the work of local authority animal welfare officers and dog wardens can be found on the website of the National Dog Warden Association  


▼ Anti-social behaviour 

Anti-social behaviour (ASB) has become a high profile issue in recent years. Where it takes hold, it can pose a serious threat to community life, undermining people’s sense of safety, their well-being and, ultimately, their health.  Evidence suggests that if swift action is taken to deal with it, it is less likely to recur. Conversely, incidents that may be relatively minor in themselves can have a serious cumulative impact if left unchecked. Small problems can escalate into bigger ones.

Tackling anti-social behaviour is a high priority for national and local government. As a regulatory activity, dealing with many of its lower-level manifestations - noise nuisance, dumped rubbish, abandoned cars, graffiti and fly-posting etc. – have fallen to Environmental Health departments and EHPs are in the front line of efforts to protect communities from its impacts.

Definition of ASB

The Home Office typology of anti-social behaviour categorises it under four core areas, according to whether the behaviour occurs in a public space, whether it has a direct or an indirect victim, and whether it impacts on the environment. 

The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 contains different definitions of anti-social behaviour  for different purposes.  These definitions encompass a variety of behaviours covering a whole complex of activities which may be unacceptable in different contexts. Incidents do not necessarily have to be criminal in themselves, nor do they have to be recorded by the police to be classed as anti-social behaviour.

Dealing with ASB

Many of the behaviours and activities under the definition of ASB will fall into an environmental health practitioners’ regular caseload. Some broad information on the powers available to them in dealing with it can be found in the following Home Office publication:

Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014: Reform of anti-social behaviour powers Statutory guidance for frontline professionals - July 2014

A toolkit - Anti-Social Behaviour: A Toolkit for Environmental Health Practitioners – was published jointly by the CIEH and the Home Office Anti-social Behaviour Unit in September 2005 and updated in 2006.  Though some of its detail has been overtaken by the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, it may still be useful to guide EHPs in this aspect of their work.

Further information on the legislation can be found in a series of Home Office information notes covering various aspects of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, including one on noisy neighbours

Environmental crime

Usually on a larger scale, and often with a financial motive, environmental crimes such as unlicensed waste burning, fly-tipping and metal theft can have serious effects on the environment and on public health and safety.  Local authorities have a role to play in combatting these but multi-agency initiatives, involving the Police and the Environment Agency are often needed.

▼ Environmental Health 2012 

In September 2002 the CIEH and the Health Development Agency published a vision statement for the development of environmental health over the next 10 years.

Environmental Health 2012 - A key partner in delivering the public health agenda projected a future in which the practice of environmental health was based on a modern health development agenda, best practice and evidence of what works.

It provided a scope of future environmental health practice:

The Scope of Environmental Health

Shere of Environmental  

It also provided a vision for the contribution of environmental health to public health in 2012:

  • Environmental health practitioners, working with and alongside other public health professionals, would be key partners in local and national efforts to protect and improve the health and quality of the lives of individuals and communities, and to reduce health inequalities
  • They would maintain a direct relationship with the general public, and apply their expertise in responding to the needs of individuals, while also tackling the wider determinants of the population’s health by identifying, controlling and preventing risks
  • They would play lead roles in local authority development, co-ordination and implementation of community health and well-being strategies through local strategic partnerships, and would actively contribute to the public health agenda of the NHS primary care trusts. They would also contribute to tackling public health issues at regional, national and international levels.
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