Every year, the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) hosts its Annual Conference and Exhibition (AEC). This year’s AEC was held in New Orleans, LA, from July 31 to August 3. Described as the “nexus for environmental health training, education, networking, and achievement,” the conference not only provided comprehensive training but also robust education through “real-world information and expertise from like-minded professionals” that share a mutual passion for environmental health.
As a NEHA partner, the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) staff presented at several sessions and elicited the participation of its members, who served as panelists during some of the sessions. NACCHO staff also collaborated with external partners and served as exhibitors and poster presenters during this year’s conference, all of which are highlighted here.
Conference attendees were able to walk away with many key takeaways. For example, in the session Extra Points for Nausea: A Foodborne Illness Scoring System, representatives from the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment (LCDHE) discussed their foodborne illness scoring matrix which considers multiple factors, including symptoms, meal history, incubation period, exposures to other risks, and the inspection history of the suspected establishment, all of which are tabulated as a final score. A score threshold is then used to determine when an onsite inspection is needed following the foodborne illness complaint. Overall, this system helps prioritize foodborne illness complaints as part of a strategic approach to addressing food safety at retail food establishments.
Furthermore, considering recent natural disasters such as wildfires impacting the air quality of areas across the U.S., sessions like the Indoor Wildfire Smoke Guidance for Vulnerable Populations highlighted indoor air studies conducted at facilities that vulnerable groups often frequent or live – daycares, retirement facilities, etc. The studies, which are funded by the CDC, provided insights on the benefits and challenges of indoor PM2.5 measurements as well as ways to create a cleaner “air room” through six simple steps: (1) Choose a room big enough for everyone to comfortably spend time in; (2) Close windows and doors; (3) Stay cool by running a portable fan, window air conditioner, or central air conditioner (set to recirculate), and closing curtains and shades when sunny; (4) Filter the air with a HEPA portable air cleaner or box fan; (5) Avoid activities that create indoor air pollution, including burning candles, smoking, sweeping or dusting, and spraying scented aerosols, etc.; and (6) Spend as much time as possible in the big room to get the most benefit from it. For additional wildfire resources, visit the Wildfire Smoke Resources for Communities blog post found here.
From breakout sessions and exhibition hall demonstrations to social network gatherings and pest tours in the French Quarter, the 2023 NEHA AEC offered an assortment of learning opportunities in various environmental health topics, and receiving continuing education credits was an added bonus. Overall, the NEHA AEC is a great conference to attend for those looking to learn, network, and explore the many possibilities of environmental health.
Next year’s conference will be held in Pittsburgh, PA from July 15-18, 2024. The call for abstracts for the 2024 AEC will be open August 28 - October 9, 2023. Stay updated at neha.org/aec.