Partnering to Protect Public Health, One Community at a Time

By Tom Burke, PhD, MPH

One of the really cool things about my job is seeing how EPA science is making a difference – for EPA, states, tribes and local governments, international agencies, and communities. Our research looks at the many aspects that make up a healthy environment and community, like clean air and water resources, and healthy homes, schools, and workplaces. All of these things are critically important for public health. Schoolchildren depend on pollution-free air when they are running around on the playground. Families enjoy swimming in clean lakes and rivers on summer vacation. And we all expect to wake up each morning in a home that is free from harmful substances. That’s why EPA scientists are continuously studying the health effects of air pollution, testing water to make sure it’s safe, and evaluating the risks of chemicals used in household products or that make their way into the environment.

But our science is only useful if it’s shared with the people who need it most, and it’s most powerful when we’re partnering with others. At the local level, county and city health officials play an important role in protecting and promoting healthy communities. Our state and local health laboratories also play a critical role in monitoring and detecting health threats to maintain our health and safety.

Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck looks on as Tom signs the MOU

Dr. Tom Burke and Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck, Executive Director of the National Association of County and City Health Officials, sign the MOU.

Tom and Scott shaking hands after signing the memorandum

Dr. Tom Burke shakes hands with Scott Becker, Executive Director of the Association of Public Health Laboratories, after signing the MOU.

That’s why I’m pleased to announce that we’ve signed two new Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) with the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) and the Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL). NACCHO works to improve public health by supporting over 2,800 public health departments across the U.S. APHL works to strengthen state and local governmental health laboratories to assure effective surveillance, detection and response to health threats. These MOUs will help us share our science and research with thousands of communities, including those who need it most – city and county health departments. We’ll also be able to improve our ability to respond to environmental public health issues by collaborating with state and local public health labs. At the same time, NACCHO and APHL can inform EPA scientists about local environmental health challenges their members are facing, help us improve our tools by providing early feedback, and share information that can help inform public health decision-making.

Working together, we can focus on issues that we all care about – like promoting health and equity, improving the quality and length of all lives, and creating a safe and healthy environment.

We’re at our best when we’re working together. These partnerships with NACCHO and APHL will strengthen our efforts to improve the health of American families and protect the environment one community at a time, across the country.

About the Author: Thomas Burke, Ph.D. is the Deputy Assistant Administrator of EPA’s Office of Research and Development as well as the Agency’s Science Advisor. He served as the Jacob I. and Irene B. Fabrikant Professor and Chair in Health, Risk and Society and the Associate Dean for Public Health Practice and Training at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health prior to coming to EPA. Before his time at Johns Hopkins, Dr. Burke was Deputy Commissioner of Health for the State of New Jersey and Director of the Office of Science and Research in the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

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