The impact of environmental factors on human health is apparent now more than ever. The World Health Organization estimates that healthier environments could prevent almost one quarter of the global burden of disease.
Environmental health focuses on the relationships between people and their environment; promotes human health and well-being; and fosters healthy and safe communities (American Public Health Association, 2020). Clean air, a stable climate, access to safe and clean drinking water, adequate sanitation and hygiene, safer chemicals, healthy workplaces, resilient and sustainable cities and built environments, sustainable agriculture practices and food systems, and access to green spaces and nature are all necessary for good health and a healthy planet.
The public awareness and interest in all things “green” is creating a demand for nurses to understand the relationship between human health and the environments in which we live, learn, work, and play. We have moved beyond questioning the science of whether we are in environmental health peril to almost unanimous consensus that we must act and act now on many of the risks we are all experiencing.
Nurses, who are one of the most trusted sources of information by the public, must be in a position to both respond to questions about the environment and its relationship to health with credible, evidence-based information, as well as provide leadership in making the necessary changes in our policies and practices. To that end we must prepare nurses with regard to their knowledge of environmental health issues and ability to address these issues in nursing practice, communities, and at a policy and systems level.
The Mission of ANHE: Promoting healthy people and healthy environments by educating and leading the nursing profession, advancing research, incorporating evidence-based practice, and influencing policy.
In our fulfillment of that mission, ANHE is committed to advancing justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion in our organization, work, and partnerships. To learn more about ANHE’s commitment read our organizational Statement on Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.
The History of ANHE
In December 2008, fifty nursing leaders were selected to represent the nursing profession at a 4-day, invitational meeting to develop a strategic plan for environmental health nursing. They represented the following: nursing subspecialty organizations ranging from nurse midwives, school nurses, and nurse practitioners, to critical care, neonatal, and public health nurses; state nursing associations; and national organizations of the Black and Hispanic Nurses Associations. While there were many accomplishments at this meeting, the two that stand out are the following:
- A national organization was born – the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments
- An organizational structure was constructed and 4 main Forums were created to begin the important work of this new Alliance: Education, Practice, Research, and Policy/Advocacy. These Forums are based on the 1995 Institute of Medicine’s report Nursing, Health, and the Environment which outlines how environmental health can be incorporated into nursing.
In June of 2009, ANHE developed a guiding document that drives the work of the Forums. Read: the ANHE Wingspread Statement. In 2018, many of the same nursing leaders who founded ANHE and representatives from national nursing organizations met in Oracle, Arizona to develop a strategic plan and update the ANHE guiding document. Read: the ANHE Oracle Statement.
ANHE Structure & Forums
The Alliance is growing as nurses from around the country, and the world, are galvanized and joining the Forums to participate in meaningful and collaborative global efforts. Each of the Forums holds monthly or bi-monthly calls and are nurses and nursing students are invited to join these calls. To find out more about the Forum activities, please see the individual Forum pages at the links below
The Education Forum is developing curriculum materials for nursing schools and for continuing education. They have also developed a free, on-line nursing text on environmental health: Environmental Health in Nursing.
The Practice Forum is sharing resources for nurses who are “greening” their hospitals and other health care facilities, as well as developing best practices and model policies to decrease unnecessary environmental exposures in our workplaces. They are also exploring standard practices that recognize environmental exposures as a determinant of health.
The Research Forum is promoting more nurses researchers in this area, mentoring new researchers, and sharing information about funding sources.
The Policy/Advocacy Forum is addressing environmental health policies at the state and national level and helping to mobilize the nursing community to support policies that encourage citizen knowledge about potential hazards through “right to know mechanisms”, reduce/eliminate known and suspected hazardous chemicals that are in our air, water, food, soil, and products.
ANHE also has two topical Committees: the Global Nurses Climate Change Committee and the Food and Agriculture Committee that are working across the 4 ANHE forums in those specific areas of interest.
Together these Forums and Committees are coordinating their efforts and reaching out to nurses around the country. The Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments welcomes any and all nurses who are interested in the environment to join the Forum and/or Committee that best reflects their interests.
ANHE Board of Directors
The ANHE Board is comprised of eight members and all are nurses. Learn more about our Board here: ANHE Board of Directors.
ANHE Steering Committee
Much of the guidance for ANHE activities comes from our Steering Committee. The Steering Committee is comprised of representatives from a number of nursing organizations, the Forum Chairs, and the Board of Directors. If you have any questions or comments about the ANHE Steering Committee, please contact Katie Huffling – ANHE Executive Director: katie@enviRN.org.
The Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments is a joint plant of work with Virginia Organizing, a 501(c)3 non-profit. Learn more about Virginia Organizing.
Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments
2901 Shepherd Street
Mount Rainier, MD 20712