The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) is the professional body for environmental health professionals.
Environmental Health News (EHN) is the magazine for CIEH members, and is published 10 times a year. It and its fortnightly email newsletter, EHN Extra, cover the main areas of environmental health: food, health and safety, environmental protection, housing, and public health. Environmental health professionals do an important job protecting the public and rely on timely information, delivered in a way that they can easily consume.
In the March edition of EHN we led with an article about the dangers of non-surgical cosmetic surgery, but tucked away in an introduction by Chief Executive Anne Godfrey was a mention of something called Covid-19. This piece titled ‘Be Prepared’ started with the words: “As this issue went to press the number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the UK was 13, out of 6,795 people tested … UK health chiefs have judged the risk to the public as moderate.” It continues: “EHPs should be informed and vigilant so that they can fulfil their public health duty. Our aim is to help you do that.”
In the following weeks, as the reality of lockdown became apparent, the editorial team worked tirelessly to keep members informed in their professional duties and supported in their personal lives.
Publishing print features packed with government advice would have been pointless in a fast-changing environment so we doubled the frequency of EHN Extra to answer this need. Open rates soared from 29.7% at the beginning of March to 41.6% in April. Similarly CTOR jumped from a respectable 25.4% at the start of March to a peak of 44% at the end of the month.
The team made sure that we were addressing the topics that informed the day-to-day needs of members working in the field. Their titles tell the story of Covid in graphic terms: ‘Bring in rationing to avoid food crisis say policy experts’ (24 March), ‘Support tenants to stay in their homes,’ councils warned amid evictions freeze (30 March), ‘For rough sleepers, accommodation is only one part of the issue’ (6 April), and ‘Tidal wave of evictions expected after lockdown unless action is taken’ (12 May).
Interviews ranged from the supportive: ‘Each individual should use his or her expertise to benefit the many’ (5 May) to investigative: ‘“The whole thing needs ramping up,” says leading bacteriologist on testing’ (12 May).
The team were acutely aware that the reporting they were doing could help protect against the spread of the virus and ultimately save lives. The way in which they dealt with that pressure while also juggling children, remote access and their own health was amazing and the appreciation they received from readers was heartfelt.