NEHA March 2024 Journal of Environmental Health


Open Access


Unraveling Environmental Health Laws: A NEPHIP Intern’s Journey in Shelby County, Tennessee

Via Fitzgerald

health o‡cers. My mentor, Dr. Angela Askew, empowered me to initiate a project of my choice, which enabled me to fuse my passion for environmental justice with a comprehen- sive report on environmental health law and policy. I aimed to demystify legal protections related to environmental health for the Shelby County community through my project. I endeavored to design a NEPHIP project that would enlighten the Shelby County resi- dents on local, state, and federal regulations a ecting their health and safety. I emphasized environmental justice principles throughout the project, intending to equip readers with knowledge to identify potential discriminatory instances. I created two versions of my Envi- ronmental Health Law and Policy at Shelby County Health Department report: a detailed written report and a condensed visual report for broad accessibility (Figure 1). My exploration of environmental law and policy in Shelby County began with review- ing news articles on SCHD initiatives and the environmental health concerns of the commu- nity. This exploration provided a foundation for my research, which helped me understand the outreach e orts of the Vector Control Program and pollution-related matters that a ected the community. The subsequent research phase involved perusing Shelby County and Memphis codes of ordinances to comprehend the legal policies underpin- ning SCHD’s work. This task was intricate as the ordinances related to environmental health programs were dispersed throughout the codes. Local health departments such as SCHD concentrate on food safety, vector con- trol, and pollution control. I received helpful guidance from Dr. Askew in this phase, who

Editor’s Note: The National Environmental Public Health Intern- ship Program (NEPHIP) is a paid internship opportunity that links environmental health undergraduate and graduate students with funded internship placements at qualified state, tribal, local, and territorial environmental public health agencies. This workforce initiative supports the establishment of qualified applicants to help meet current and future environmental health professional workforce needs across the nation. NEPHIP is supported by the National Center for Environmental Health within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through a cooperative agreement (CDC-RFA-OT18-1802). We are pleased to o‰er a new column in the Journal that shines a spotlight on the project work being done by NEPHIP interns within their host agencies. Through these columns, we hope to highlight the value and importance of practice-based internships for students and environmental public health agencies, as well as share ideas and information relevant to the profession. The conclusions of this column are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the o‹cial position of NEHA, the host agencies, or the funders of the program. Via Fitzgerald was a NEPHIP intern during summer 2022 and completed her internship with the Shelby County Health Department in Tennessee.

M y venture into environmental health was prompted by a strong resolve to lessen environmental hazards that disproportionately a ect under-resourced communities in the U.S. and beyond. This in- clination toward environmental justice steered my academic and career pursuits, culminating in my application for a virtual summer in- ternship in 2022 through the National Envi-

ronmental Public Health Internship Program (NEPHIP). My expectation was to gain insight into protecting the public from environmental hazards by working at a state, local, tribal, or territorial public health agency. My assignment with the Shelby County Health Department (SCHD) was an enlight- ening experience, o ering a glimpse into the daily operations of local environmental


Volume 86 • Number 7

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