Conference Recap: NACCHO at the 2016 National Environmental Health Association Annual Conference

NACCHOBooth-NEHA AEC 2016The National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) hosted its annual conference and exhibition (AEC) in partnership with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), earlier this summer in June. Described as the “nexus for environmental health training, education, networking and achievement,” this four-day event focused on how to move environmental health outside the box. As a prominent NEHA partner, NACCHO staff presented at several sessions and served as exhibitors during this year’s conference. NACCHO’s environmental health and government affairs teams contributed to one of the plenaries and five education sessions on topics including food defense, aquatic safety, and public health advocacy. Information presented during each of the six sessions and as a part of NACCHO’s exhibit booth is highlighted in more detail below.

The Role of Professional Associations in an Integrated Food Safety System
This was one of the conference plenary sessions, which featured an interactive discussion panel moderated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Pacific Region Retail Food Specialist, John Marcello. NACCHO’s Director of Environmental Health, Jennifer Li, joined representatives from Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO), International Food Protection Training Institute (IFPTI), FDA, and NEHA to share each organization’s vision and work contributing to the promotion of the Integrated Food Safety System (IFSS) and the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

As a panelist, Li discussed various NACCHO efforts related to supporting local health department awareness and engagement in both the IFSS and FSMA. Examples of activities Li highlighted included, facilitating a Food Safety Workgroup and a Mentorship Program for FDA Retail Program Standards; partnering with the Conference for Food Protection; and hosting digital sharing sessions on topics such as cottage foods and food trucks. This session was recorded and can be view in full, here.

Making the Grade: Exploration of Retail Food Establishment Scoring and Grade Systems
In this session, NACCHO staff and representatives from the Southern Nevada Health District presented on retail food establishment scoring, grading, and placarding systems. NACCHO staff highlighted research that was conducted to better understand these systems, including prevalence, composition, successes, and shortcomings. Southern Nevada Health District also gave a brief overview of their grading system and its benefits.

This session was recorded and can be accessed here. Also available online is the NACCHO summary report on scoring, grading, and placarding systems.

Pushing Through the Hurdles: Advice to Meeting the FDA Retail Program Standards
In this session, NACCHO collaborated with the FDA to provide technical assistance and advice on meeting the FDA Voluntary National Retail Food Regulatory Program Standards. NACCHO and FDA staff, as well as participants of the NACCHO Mentorship Program for Retail Program Standards, set up four stations to discuss (1) developing and implementing a strategic plan; (2) overcoming organizational challenges; (3) technical challenges; and (4) risk factor studies. Participants were given the opportunity to visit each station and discuss pertinent issues relevant to their retail food programs with subject matter experts and their peers. In addition, the attendees received takeaway resources, such as foodborne illness outbreak response materials and information about NACCHO’s mentorship program.

Defending the Dinner Table: Overcoming Barriers to Effective Threat Communication
In this session, NACCHO Program Analyst, Lindsay Beattie, presented findings from a study, funded by the Food Protection and Defense Institute (FPDI), on threat information sharing between the public and private sectors of the Food and Agriculture Sector. Attendees received an overview of current threat information sharing techniques and barriers still in existence that are inhibiting optimal information sharing. The session wrapped up with identified recommendations and next steps on how to continue to improve collaboration and information sharing across the sector.

Help Cracking the Code: Model Aquatic Health Code Speed Mentoring Session
In this session, attendees received “speed mentoring” from Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC) subject matter experts on using the MAHC to improve aquatic safety in their communities. Key mentoring topics were split between four stations: (1) MAHC implementation Support, (2) Council for the Model Aquatic Health Code (CMAHC) 101, (3) Adoption Stories from the Field (Jefferson County, Colorado and the state of New Mexico), and (4) MAHC Inspector Training and Data Use. Each station’s discussions were led by representatives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), CMAHC, NEHA, and NACCHO. Health department staff from Jefferson County, Colorado and the State of New Mexico also provided local insight via their MAHC adoption stories.

Visit NACCHO’s MAHC Network website to learn more about the MAHC, and upcoming NACCHO MAHC activities.

NEHA Goes to Washington
In this session, NACCHO Senior Government Affairs Director, Eli Briggs, co-presented with NEHA Government Affairs Director, Joanne Zurcher, and National Conference of State Legislatures Program Director for Environmental Health, Doug Farquhar. Attendees received an overview on how local environmental health practitioners can get involved in the policy sphere. The session also highlighted how NACCHO has successfully influenced policymaking in Washington, D.C., and ways NACCHO and NEHA partner in this work.

NACCHO Exhibit Booth
In addition to collaborating on education sessions, NACCHO sponsored a booth as part of the 2016 exhibition hall, open during the first two days of the conference. Serving as an exhibitor allowed NACCHO staff to interact and network with attendees from across the nation, while also showcasing the organization’s wide array of environmental health initiatives and resources. NACCHO staff highlighted and distributed publications including the Summary of Retail Food Inspection Scoring, Grading, and Placarding Systems, 12 Steps to Operationalize Climate Change in a Local Health Department, The Model Aquatic Health Code Network fact sheet, as well as fact sheets on the Impact of Budget Cuts on Environmental Health Services at Local Health Departments.

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Learn more about all of the sessions and exhibitors at this year’s NEHA AEC, here.

About Anastasia Sonneman

Anastasia Sonneman serves as a Communications Specialist at NACCHO. Her work includes promoting local health departments' best practices, as well as partner tools and resources, in environmental health, health and disability, and preparedness through NACCHO's communications channels, storytelling, and outreach to various audiences.

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