NEHA October 2022 Journal of Environmental Health

October 2022 • Journal of Environmental Health 51 SPOKANE, WASHINGTON Featured Speakers Keynote Address NEHA President Roy Kroeger opened the 2022 AEC on June 28. A er welcoming attendees to beautiful Spokane, he introduced Carol Evans, chairperson of the Spokane Tribal Council. Evans delivered a meaningful invocation and started it by saying, “For myself and my people, we always acknowledge our creator. Thank you, creator, for this beautiful day. We thank you for all of the gi s you provide for us—for the air, water, land, animals, and the people.” She spoke of the importance of the history of the land and its connection to the Spokane people. Evans closed by delivering a land acknowledgement—a statement that recognizes, respects, and aˆirms the ongoing relationship between Indigenous people and the land—by stating, “For my people, this land that you sit on today is the historical home of the Spokane people since time immemorial.” The Keynote Address was presented by Dr. Umair Shah, MPH, MD. He was appointed secretary of health for the Washington State Board of Health by Governor Jay Inslee in December 2020. Prior to this role, Dr. Shah served as executive director and local health authority for Harris County Public Health in Texas—a nationally-accredited public health agency for the nation’s 3rd largest county with 4.7 million people. Over his career, Dr. Shah has been a clinician, innovator, educator, and leader in health. Dr. Shah began his address by saying, “It’s not words on paper but action as we must all come together.” His presentation—Health Where Equity, Innovation, and Engagement Meet— set the stage for the 45-minute address. Dr. Shah continued by emphasizing, “It’s what we do as a society collectively, as people, to be safe, healthy, and protected. If we do well, we get healthy people that create healthy communities.” He added that “public health is inherently political” and creates an “invisibility crisis” for the environmental and public health workforce. He listed the three V’s of this crisis: visibility, value, and validation. He likened the workforce as the “oˆensive line of a football team,” not being seen but their impact crucial and needed. Climate change was also addressed, including wildfires, mudslides, glacier melting, and excessive heat. “It’s a challenge for all of us, what we are seeing across the country, we are all connected. We have the responsibility to call the signal and do more for our future generations,” he stated. “We are connected and global health matters.” He then addressed COVID-19 by saying, “We recognize we have a responsibility of what we learned from COVID-19 and ways to move forward.” Dr. Shah closed his address by sharing, “Environmental health for all, not just for some, by all of us coming together. I want to thank you for every single day of going to work to build communities. If we do this well, we can absolutely change the world and do good.” He then read the proclamation fromGovernor Inslee that declared June 28, 2022, as Environmental Public Health Professionals Day. Grand Session Kicko The Grand Session Kickoˆ on June 29 featured a panel discussion focused on the challenges the environmental health workforce has faced and still faces regarding COVID-19 practices. During the 90-minute session, the panel discussed the threats, violence, and unprecedented working conditions that environmental health professional faced during the last 2 years. The panel also explored how we can learn from this experience and move forward in a positive direction. The panel, moderated by President Kroeger, included: • Eric Bradley, deputy director for Linn County Public Health in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. During the first 2 years of the COVID-19 pandemic, he was environmental health manager for the Scott County Health Department in Davenport, Iowa. • Tom Gonzales, public health director for the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment in Fort Collins, Colorado. Prior to this position, he served as deputy public continued on page 52 Keynote speaker Dr. Umair Shah emphasized the importance of us coming together to keep people and communities safe and healthy. Carol Evans, chairperson of the Spokane Tribal Council, shared the importance of the history of the land and its connection to the Spokane people. The Grand Session Kicko panelists addressed many of the challenges the environmental health workforce faced during the COVID-19 pandemic.