Secretary of Health Michael Wolf Monday announced enhancements to the department's internal processes for responding to environmental health concerns and complaints specifically related to Marcellus Shale drilling.
"Protecting the public's health, and ensuring that citizens and health care providers have access to accurate, timely and relevant information, is a primary responsibility of the department, and one that the governor and I take very seriously," Secretary of Health Michael Wolf said. "The improvements we're announcing today will further enhance these efforts and reflect our ongoing commitment to prioritizing the health needs of all Pennsylvanians."
Earlier this summer, Wolf established a working group within the department to determine how processes could be improved. As a result, the department has made the following improvements:
-- Provided information on how to file an environmental health complaint through various partners throughout the state, including targeted outreach to the medical community, who are often the first to learn of environmental health concerns;
-- Enhanced the environmental health section of the department's website with emphasis on accessibility and ease of navigation;
-- Instituted a written letter response policy for all environmental health concerns to better track and document correspondence that takes place between the department and those who express concerns; and
-- Committed to better coordination and communication with the Department of Environmental Protection when dealing with complaints involving both agencies as well as when complaints need to be transferred from one agency to another.
"The department's priority is to address the public's concerns, whether they are about environmental health in general or specifically related to Marcellus Shale drilling," Wolf said. "I believe by implementing these straightforward changes, Pennsylvanians will be better informed about what the department does and how we can be of assistance."
Environmental health is an aspect of public health that examines how different environments affect a person's well-being. Health effects of breathing air and drinking water, for example, are researched in specific locations where there may be cause for concern.
Environmental health complaints are reported to the department's Bureau of Epidemiology where they are reviewed and investigated, data is collected and analyzed, and a formal response is provided directly to the individual that filed a complaint, regardless of the nature of the complaint.
The Department of Health does not provide primary health care services; it provides advice based on the nature of the complaint. The department works closely with those who report a concern and, if they agree, their health care provider to address those concerns.
Depending on the nature of the health concern, department environmental health staff members work closely with federal, state, county, local officials and the public on a regular basis to help address environmental health issues and concerns throughout the Commonwealth.