Environmental health programs and services are delivered by various agencies across Canada. In an effort to make this information readily available, we have compiled it into a two-part, comprehensive resource.
The initial directory of this information was created in 2010 through a pilot project with the Canadian Institute of Public Health Inspectors (CIPHI) and was last updated in 2013. The results allow public health inspectors (PHIs), medical health officers (MHOs), and others in the field to share program information, make valuable connections on program issues and, at a glance, view “who does what” in environmental health across the country from a public health inspection perspective.
Part one: "WHO." A high-level view of the government organizations connected to the development and delivery of environmental health programs and services.
Part two: "WHAT." A more in-depth, topic-oriented dissection of the information outlined in part one.
Highlights and details are presented below.
The information in this directory originated from a surveyed sample of directors and managers of agencies who are involved in public health inspection. Over 45 provincial, territorial, and federal agencies responded and we continue to fill in the gaps. Respondents suggested the information be updated on a regular basis.
WHO Does What
Environmental health programming and its delivery is diverse across Canada and in the provinces/territories themselves. The wide variety of responsibilities within programs makes it difficult to identify core programs, with the exception of food safety and swimming pools and recreational waters. PHI responsibilities include inspection, enforcement, training, and education. They work with MHOs within a variety of reporting structures.
In terms of regulatory authority, the majority of health agencies are governed by a Public Health Act and the MHO is the lead person in a public health emergency. In most cases, the MHO or PHI can issue an order under the appropriate legislation. Almost all agencies have the authority to close a premise and many can fine establishments for health violations, with the exception of Health Canada's First Nations and Inuit Health Branch, which does not have the authority for either.
The majority of environmental health programs are delivered to the general public through provincial/territorial, regional, or local agencies (typically health agencies). Federal agencies deliver services to specific populations: on-reserve First Nations south of the 60th parallel and passengers that travel within Canada on domestic and international conveyances (e.g., cruise ships, aircraft, passenger trains, and ferries).
Who Does WHAT
- Most consistent programs delivered by PHIs who carry out on-site inspections: food safety, communicable disease and infection control, swimming pools and recreational water, public water supplies, and private water supplies.
- Programs with wide variation: general sanitation, environmental health (except for mould, moisture, and mildew), and environmental health risk assessment.
- Programs usually delivered by others: pesticide control (provincial or municipal), sewage systems and plumbing (building officials), and tobacco control (provincial or federal).
- Several provinces have unique programs.
- Nearly all programs inspected: restaurants, banquet halls, food vendors, grocery stores, retail food stores, and food vending processing establishments.
- Significant number of programs inspected: food services areas in hospitals, nursing homes and long term care facilities, butcher shops, markets and farmers markets.
- Significant variation in inspection of: food manufacturing plants, meat processing plants, and dairies.
Communicable Disease and Infection Control:
- Significant number of programs inspected: nursing homes and long term care facilities, tattoo parlours, and other personal service establishments.
- Significant number of programs investigated: animal bites and quarantine, foodborne and waterborne illness, and communicable disease.
- Variation in inspection of hospitals and involvement in infection control committees.
Swimming Pools and Recreational Water:
- Nearly all programs inspected and posted notices for: public/semi-public swimming pools, spas, water parks, and public bathing beaches.
Public and Private Water Supplies:
- Most programs were involved with differences depending if urban or rural.
- Variation in involvement depending on program area.
Acknowledgements: Len Gallant, Brian Hatton, Lawrence Pernica, and Daniel Fong.