NEHA October 2022 Journal of Environmental Health

32 Volume 85 • Number 3 A D VANC EME N T O F T H E PRACTICE  B U I L D I N G C A PA C I T Y Chirag Bhatt, RS, CCFS Capacity building is the improvement in an individual’s or organization’s facility (or capability) to produce, perform, or deploy. Community capacity building is a long-term continual process of development that involves all stakeholders as opposed to practices that limit oversight and involvement in interventions with governments. The list of parties defined as community includes local authorities, nongovernmental organizations, professionals, community members, academics, and more. A widespread failure to invest in public health has left local and state health departments struggling to respond to outbreaks, which makes these departments ill-prepared to face the swelling crisis. Many health departments are suering from budget and stang cuts, yet still manage a vast, but often invisible, portfolio of duties. Nationwide, local and state health departments have lost nearly one quarter of their workforce since 2008 (Grenadier, 2020). Several federal agencies and other organizations want to help health departments. One such funding program to assist health departments is the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA)-Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Retail Flexible Funding Model (RFFM) Grant Program (NEHA, 2022a). The grant provides funding to state, local, tribal, and territorial (SLTT) retail food regulatory agencies as they advance conformance with the FDA Voluntary National Retail Food Regulatory Program Standards (Retail Program Standards). The FDA Retail Program Standards serve as a guide to regulatory retail food program managers in the design and management of a retail food regulatory program and provide a means of recognition for those programs that meet the standards (FDA, 2022). Program managers and administrators can establish additional requirements to meet individual program needs. The Retail Program Standards are designed to help food regulatory programs enhance the services they provide to the public. These programs represent an important component of a comprehensive strategic approach to help ensure the safety and security of the food supply at the retail level. Introduced in 2021 for calendar year (CY) 2022 of the NEHA-FDA RFFM Grant Program, a Capacity Building Optional Add-On Grant of up to $100,000/year was oered to develop a 3-year project or initiative that advances SLTT retail food programs by collaborating with stakeholders involved in retail food safety (NEHA, 2022b). From the grant guidance, the “project or initiative would leverage the strengths, knowledge, tools, and other resources of collaborators to further city-wide, multi-county, regional, statewide, or national conformance with the Retail Program Standards” (NEHA, 2022b, p. 9). This grant could also be utilized to fund a Retail Program Standards coordinator position. A total of 26 Capacity Building Grants were awarded for CY 2022 (NEHA, 2022c). While the Capacity Building Optional Add-On Grant is not being oered in the CY 2023 project year, there are project options from that grant category for health departments to consider if they Ed i tor ’s Not e : A need exists within environmental health agencies to increase their capacity to perform in an environment of diminishing resources. With limited resources and increasing demands, we need to seek new approaches to the practice of environmental health. Acutely aware of these challenges, the Journal publishes the Building Capacity column to educate, reinforce, and build upon successes within the profession using technology to improve e ciency and extend the impact of environmental health agencies. The content and conclusions of this column are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views or official position of NEHA or its programs. Chirag Bhatt is the director of regulatory a airs for environmental health at HS GovTech. He has over 40 years of experience in the food safety and environmental health field and specializes in technology and regulatory compliance. Prior to working at HS GovTech, Bhatt worked at the local level as a program manager for the Houston Health Department. Capacity Building for Retail Food Regulatory Programs