Environmental Public Health Services in First Nations communities

Working together with First Nations communities, Environmental Public Health Services help to identify and prevent public health risks.

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About Environmental Public Health Services

The Environmental Public Health Services team works with First Nations communities to identify and prevent environmental public health risks. These risks could negatively impact the health of people in both the natural and built environment. Most of these services are provided by Environmental Public Health Officers (EPHOs). EPHOs are certified public health inspectors.

North of the 60° parallel, Environmental Public Health Services are delivered by the territorial governments.

For those South of the 60° parallel, EPHOs are employed by Indigenous Services Canada or by First Nations, tribal councils and other organizations, such as the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) in BC.

What EPHOs do

EPHOs working in First Nations communities South of 60° parallel are responsible for assessing:

EPHOs collaborate with:

EPHOs manage public health risks by:

Community work plans identify both routine and priority activities requested by local leadership. These plans help determine the services delivered by the community's EPHO. Inspections, investigations and other activities can also be conducted if a concern is identified after a work plan has been developed.

Working as an EPHO

Learn about a career as an EPHO.

Margaret Coady, Environmental Public Health Officer

Meet Margaret Coady, an Indigenous Environmental Public Health Officer, and learn more about her strong sense of responsibility and connectivity to her career as she spends the day with the Algonquins of Pikwäkanagàn First Nation.

Transcript of video: Environmental Public Health Officer: Margaret Coady

My name is Margaret Elizabeth Coady. I work in environmental public health on a healthy housing team that supports environmental public health officers.

An environmental public health officer (EPHO) is someone who provides essential public health services to chief and council on a variety of public health related topics including indoor air quality, housing, septic and sewage, food quality, and safe water.

The day-to-day role of an EPHO is very exciting! It's always changing, it's always challenging - there's something new happening each day, and every day is vastly different from the last.

There are definitely challenges. Some days are harder than others, but with the ability to have great lines of communication with the people that you're serving - to be able to be available for them in times of crisis or need – the benefits outweigh the negatives.

Becoming an EPHO, as an Indigenous person, is incredibly important and has direct benefits back to your community. My grandpa Cliff always told me that women were the keepers of water, and working as an Environmental Public Health Officer has helped me bridge that connection. I feel a strong sense of responsibility and connectivity to my role as an Environmental Public Health Officer.

My education in public health has become more than just what I do. It's become who I am.

This is a career that supports and honours your land, water, air and community. You have the ability to create your own story of self-determination and can find your own path in environmental public health, supporting not only yourself, but the people around you, your community and the land.

Shannon Imhoff, Environmental Public Health Officer

Join Shannon Imhoff, an Environmental Public Health Officer, as she spends the day with the Thunderchild First Nation. Learn more about her responsibilities as an EPHO and the fulfillment she finds in her job every day.

Transcript of video: Environmental Public Health Officer: Shannon Imhoff

My name is Shannon Imhoff and I've been an Environmental Public Health Officer with First Nations and Inuit Health Branch for 13 years

What got me involved in the field of environmental public health was my daughter become sick with food-borne illness. And with helping the local health inspectors with the investigation, it lead me into having interest with environmental public health.

Environmental Public Health Officers are important because we advocate for the public safety in everything that we do and everything that we look at.

It's our job to ensure when people go to restaurants, that the food they eat is safe. It's our job to help people live in a safe environment. And when people get sick we can try to help them determine where they are getting sick from and help them live a better life and have better health.

My job is different every day. I start with having a coffee in the morning, doing my morning chores that I have to do at home before I get ready to head off to work. Check my emails, any phone messages that I might have. See if there's anything urgent that I have to address or go look at. Then I'll go and pack all the equipment that I need for my visit in the vehicle and then I hit the road.

We do a little bit of everything. Water testing, water sampling, pest infestation investigations, food inspection, health and safety, indoor air quality, communicable disease investigation.

Some of the challenges with being an Environmental Public Health Officer would be sometimes you go out and do your work and the situations you see are hard. And when you're advocating to try to help people have better health and life then sometimes you feel like you're not getting anywhere but you just have to keep going because every little bit helps.

As an Environmental Public Health Officer, I find lots of fulfillment for myself in my job every day. Just with the work that I do. And I find that that's important for me to live a happy, successful life.

If you're considering becoming an Environmental Public Health Officer, you need to be compassionate, you need to be resilient, flexible, reliable, adaptable, you need to be a good problem-solver. The list of traits is endless.

We are always in need of Environmental Public Health Officers so if you are considering a career in this field – do it – there's no better time than now.

We are honoured to have been welcomed by Thunderchild First Nation and give thanks to the community for allowing us to visit and film. Thank You/Hiy Hiy

To learn more about becoming an EPHO, please visit Becoming a Certified Environmental Public Health Officer.

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