Wellbeing and mental health: an evolving role for environmental health practitioners through evidence based practice


Spear, S., Stewart, J., Knight, A. and Stacey, C. 2011. Wellbeing and mental health: an evolving role for environmental health practitioners through evidence based practice. Journal of Environmental Health Research. 11 (2), pp. 117-126.
TitleWellbeing and mental health: an evolving role for environmental health practitioners through evidence based practice
AuthorsSpear, S., Stewart, J., Knight, A. and Stacey, C.

In the UK wellbeing is rapidly emerging as an agenda with a focus on positive mental health. Wellbeing is also seen as contributing to neighbourhood and community health and so helping add to social capital and social cohesion locally. Environmental health practitioners (EHPs) are key players in the front line delivery of the wellbeing agenda by helping provide a healthy environment for people to live and work in. EHPs also contribute towards positive mental health through their work in the fields of area regeneration, housing standards, food security, nutrition, addressing fuel poverty, workplace health, environmental quality, emergency planning and in allied roles within existing public health partnerships. The way environmental health has historically developed and the face-to-face contact EHPs have with their local communities make them ideally placed to carry the wellbeing agenda forward.
This work was carried out in the light of the Department of Health (DH 2010a) publication, Confident Communities, Brighter Futures. For the purposes of the publication the Department of Health (DH) carried out extensive background research into wellbeing, which has formed the evidence base used in this audit. Many of the DH findings on wellbeing relate directly to the role of EHPs.
After piloting, a combination of telephone and face-toface interviews (20 in total) was carried out with members of the environmental health profession in England and Wales. The interviews aim to audit how EHPs currently perceive and contribute to the wellbeing agenda; main challenges and barriers faced; what evidence is being used to underpin their roles; strategic development and good practice at local level; and measures of service success and evaluation. We acknowledge that the sample size is small and that this is an initial audit with the potential for future study.
The audit revealed that wellbeing is seen as an implicit part of environmental health strategies and interventions. While most interviewed had an overall idea of the concept of wellbeing, there was variation in how it was defined, often relating to the respondent’s particular discipline and expertise of work. The findings of this audit have important implications for how EHPs deliver their more traditional environmental and public health functions in the future in order to further enhance evidence-based wellbeing strategies, contributing further to positive mental health. In particular, there is a need to consider how evidence can be more effectively disseminated and used by EHPs in delivering their existing remit to even greater effect.

Keywordsenvironmental health, environmental health practitioner, wellbeing, mental health, local government, local authority
PublisherChartered Institute of Environmental Health
JournalJournal of Environmental Health Research
Publication dates
Print01 Oct 2011
Publication process dates
Deposited17 Mar 2014
Accepted01 Oct 2011
Output statusPublished
Additional information

[1] This paper was commissioned by the CIEH on behalf of the Department of Health.

Web address (URL)http://www.cieh.org/WorkArea/showcontent.aspx?id=39348
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