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Process and action.

It started with an e-mail from Larry Marcum, head of the NEHA Research and Development Department, to NEHA Executive Director Nelson Fabian. Senate Bill S. 506 had been introduced in Congress. This legislation would amend the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act. Larry suggested that the NEHA Board of Directors (BOD) might want to take a position on the legislation. Through an ongoing cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control (Division of Adolescence and School Health), NEHA has been receiving substantial funding for the past three years to conduct the Food Safe Schools education initiative and participate in a national coalition addressing the issue. NEHA is a National Cooperative Partner for this project and is one of only five organizations to have a seat on the project steering committee.

As he always does, Nelson contacted me (the NEHA president) by e-mail, provided me with background information on this legislation, and asked if the BOD wished to take some action. Sensing an opportunity, I sent an e-mail to the board members asking them to review the legislation and provide me with their comments. Over the next few days, I received several comments from board members supporting the legislation. They also offered comments and suggestions for improvement. Some especially important comments focused on making sure that NEHA supported the inclusion of local health departments in the delivery of safe food in schools.

After receiving these comments, I drafted a letter to send to Congress. The BOD had an opportunity to review the draft. After final BOD comments and approval were received, the letter was finalized and sent to the Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on Research, Nutrition, and General Legislation in the Senate and the Committee on Education and the Workforce in the House of Representatives.

I tell this story because I want to emphasize several points with respect to process and action. First, as part of the process, the NEHA board invites comments and suggestions about anything related to environmental health from anyone, especially members and staff. We can't know everything that is going on, but we can get involved when we do. We need all the help we can get.

Second, as this example shows, the NEHA staff stay on top of ongoing events at the national level. The NEHA board routinely receives their suggestions and comments. When we receive their comments, we evaluate them and take action as appropriate. Most of the time they provide excellent ideas, which we carefully review, revise as necessary, then implement.

The third point I want to emphasize has to do with action. NEHA as an association is on top of national issues and takes action to educate and provide comments on national issues when the BOD determines it is important to do so.

Finally, there is a close working relationship between the NEHA staff and the NEHA board. We have high-quality professional staff working for NEHA, and they are continually on top of environmental health issues and working for the NEHA members. Likewise, the NEHA Board of Directors comprises some of the most hardworking and dedicated people I know. They consistently take time out of their schedules to respond to almost daily e-mails and phone calls from NEHA staff or myself to conduct the business of NEHA.

To see the results of process and action, I encourage you to read the letter I signed and sent to appropriate members of Congress and the committees debating amendments to S. 506, the Safe School Food Act of 2003. If there is an issue you think the board needs to know about or respond to, I encourage you to contact your regional vice president. He or she can bring the issue to the attention of the BOD for consideration. In the meantime, the NEHA board and the NEHA staff will continue to monitor national and local environmental health issues, and respond to and represent you.

Editor's note: The letter referred to in this article can be found on page 50 of this Journal.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:President's Message
Author:Ebelherr, Douglas J.
Publication:Journal of Environmental Health
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2003
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