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“Back to the Future”: Time for a Renaissance of Public Health Engineering
  • Published Date:
    January 29 2019
  • Source:
    Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019; 16(3)
  • Language:
Filetype[PDF-664.26 KB]

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  • Description:
    Public health has always been, and remains, an interdisciplinary field, and engineering was closely aligned with public health for many years. Indeed, the branch of engineering that has been known at various times as sanitary engineering, public health engineering, or environmental engineering was integral to the emergence of public health as a distinct discipline. However, in the United States (U.S.) during the 20th century, the academic preparation and practice of this branch of engineering became largely separated from public health. Various factors contributed to this separation, including an evolution in leadership roles within public health; increasing specialization within public health; and the emerging environmental movement, which led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), with its emphasis on the natural environment. In this paper, we consider these factors in turn. We also present a case study example of public health engineering in current practice in the U.S. that has had large-scale positive health impacts through improving water and sanitation services in Native American and Alaska Native communities. We also consider briefly how to educate engineers to work in public health in the modern world, and the benefits and challenges associated with that process. We close by discussing the global implications of public health engineering and the need to re-integrate engineering into public health practice and strengthen the connection between the two fields.

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