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Environmental health practitioners: a key cadre in the control of COVID-19 in sub-Saharan Africa
  1. Tracy Morse1,2,
  2. Kondwani Chidziwisano1,2,
  3. David Musoke3,4,
  4. Tara K Beattie1,
  5. Selva Mudaly5,6
  1. 1 Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK
  2. 2 Department of Environmental Health, University of Malawi - Polytechnic, Blantyre, Southern Region, Malawi
  3. 3 School of Public Health, Makerere University College of Health Sciences, Kampala, Uganda
  4. 4 Africa Academy for Environmental Health, School of Public Health, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda
  5. 5 International Federation of Environmental Health, Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, London, UK
  6. 6 South African Institute of Environmental Health, Durban, Kwa Zulu Natal, South Africa
  1. Correspondence to Dr Tracy Morse; tracy.thomson{at}strath.ac.uk

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Summary box

  • The multidisciplinary nature of environmental health practitioners (EHP) allows them to understand where different sectors can intersect to maximise severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)-related interventions.

  • EHPs have the necessary skills to support the transdisciplinary approach required to halt the further spread of SARS-CoV-2.

  • Governments should support the work of EHPs across the region and include them among key decision-making stakeholders.

Early in 2020, as the novel severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) took a global hold, Kapata and colleagues asked the question ‘Is Africa prepared and equipped to deal with yet another outbreak of a highly infectious disease – COVID-19?’.1 The authors advocated that, in many ways, the continent has never been better prepared to deal with a global pandemic, such as COVID-19, having learnt and developed plans from previous and ongoing disease outbreaks, for example, Ebola in 2014–2016. However, in a region where health systems are already crippled by the delivery of routine health services, and where COVID-19 mitigation measures such as social distancing and lockdowns are neither physically nor economically viable, it is essential that we focus on context appropriate preventive measures to minimise the impact of SARS-CoV-2 transmission.2–5

Key to the implementation of preventive measures are environmental health practitioners (EHPs). EHPs have played a vital role since the initial response to COVID-19 in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), leading the rapid implementation of controls at border posts, for example, traveller screening, implementation of quarantining rules, isolation of cases and contact tracing through their role in port and community health management. However, as the number of cases across the continent continues to rise, it can be argued that EHPs have a much wider role to play due to their broad range …

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