EHA Submission on the roles and functions of an Australian CDC
6th Jan 23
EHA welcomes the opportunity to provide input to the consultation process on the Roles and Functions of an Australian CDC. In this submission, we recommend that environmental health be intrinsically included in the CDC mission, scope and discussions on disease control and prevention.
Environmental health, although intuitive to many in that we expect to drink safe water, eat safe food, breath clean air, and not be exposed to environmental contaminants, is poorly understood but a critically important part of the preventative health framework already existing in Australia at the local level. Undertaking health protection and promoting a preventive agenda aimed at protecting the health of communities throughout Australia is an essential component of environmental health.
The environmental health profession's applied health science foundation allows for a vigilance to health threats and provides a scientific approach to risk, which makes it by far the largest order of magnitude of importance, to human health and the biggest community health sector contributor to disease control and prevention of all causes of morbidity and mortality.
Environmental health needs to be included explicitly in the mission statement of the CDC, and more broadly, included in every aspect of the CDCs decision making on all hazards. EHA is strongly of the view that a CDC should oversee the monitoring and best scientific advice of all disease within communities and not just acute or focal situations that may arise from a specific outbreak from time to time. At a glimpse, and in no order of priority of focus, environment health assists with controls in all environments from something as basic as the temperature control and chain of custody of vaccines, the air quality within buildings and emissions from industry, safe and quality food from paddock to plate, safe and quality drinking and recreational water, safe waste disposal including biomedical waste, infection control in hospital and health care settings, safety of mass gatherings, vector borne disease control, all of which have the capacity to impact on disease conditions which affect the Australian population.
A recent example of an emerging human health risk reported in the media is the first ever detection of microplastics in human breast milk. This would no doubt be on the horizon for a future CDC and highlights this relationship between the environment and human health, but also raises an immediate environmental health related discussion around how a contaminant entered the body and the environmental health implications and controls.
The list of environmental health risks and controls is long and the subject of volumes of research and a myriad of legislation, regulation and guidance notes at every level of government and industry. Environmental disease control and prevention activities are population based in nature and pertain to the public health outcomes in urban environment, rural, regional and international settings alike.
There is no setting where environmental health has no reach, no controls and an absence to the discussion of disease control or the prevention agenda. By explicitly stating environmental health as a fundamental pillar of the CDCs design, work and mission, it firmly sets the focus on effective disease control and prevention.
EHA urges the explicit addition of environmental health into the Mission Statement as it presents an opportunity from the CDC’s inception to include the largest contributor to population health outcomes and close off any potential 'chasm' between the public health system and the environment by making it absolutely clear the level of importance of environmental health controls to disease control and prevention.
Further on the proposed CDC Mission Statement, it is important that the statement makes reference to the inclusion of local government as a key stakeholder. The CDC Design Principles includes “Success through co-design and consultation”. This needs to include reference to Local Government as an essential partner in the design of the CDC and could be adjusted to read “The CDC will work closely with other Australian local, state and territory agencies…” Under the Australian constitution, health is a state responsibility. In most states this responsibility is devolved to local government and therefore local government should be included as a key stakeholder and referenced in the CDC Mission Statement.