Variety is the name of the game and no two days are ever the same when you work inenvironmental health, says Griffith University’s Sonya Kozak.
The third year Bachelor of Public Health (Environmental Health and Sustainability) studentsays it was this variety of work which encouraged her to transfer from a Bachelor of Science after
her first year of study.
“The beauty of this field is that it is very broad with many interesting areas to choose from such assoil, water or air pollution management, compliance, to prevention of communicable diseases.”
Now working on placement with the Gold Coast Public Health Unit, Sonya says she isparticularly enjoying the investigative work involved in cases of retail non-compliance.
“Working with a fully qualified environmental health officer, I have been helping to investigatecomplaints regarding Surfers Paradise cigarette retailers who have allegedly been providingcigarettes to minors. My role has been to assist with the preparation of the background notes forthe upcoming legal trial and also to help remedy the situation by providing information on thecurrent legislation to those involved.”
Sonya says it can be challenging to work in enforcement within the community.“I do really like the investigative nature of the job. Another interesting case was where we hadreceived complaints from the public regarding a vet who had allegedly supplied restricted drugs toanimal owners in suspiciously high quantities.
“Sometimes we could be in a position where we have provided a number of warnings to abusiness about cleaning up their act, but to no avail. We then have to think about providing them
with an infringement notice. This can be tough but it’s a necessary part of the job.”
On other days, Sonya says she can be doing something totally different such as assessing levelsof risk associated with legionella in the water of a local organisation.
“As officers who are expected to identify and prevent environmental health-related risks andhazards, we need to have a strong knowledge of the science behind the problems. For example, knowledge of the types of bacteria that could be in the food or water samples that we collect andtake to the lab. This can be challenging because the knowledge in the field changes constantly butit’s important that we keep ourselves up-to-date in these areas.
“It’s all very varied and we deal with a wide range of people from council to the private sector, toQueensland Health and local legal practitioners.”
Expected to graduate with honours next year, Sonya says she is still undecided about which areaof environmental health to specialise in.
“At the end of the day, though, the work is about making a difference to health and environmentalsustainability within the community and there are heaps of really exciting opportunities out there!
“I wouldn’t be doing anything else now,” she says.
Excitement with new program
Associate Professor Anne Roiko, who leads the discipline of Environmental Health at Griffith,said her team is excited about the new Bachelor of Environmental Health program being launched
“Building on years of graduating successful environmental health professionals through GriffithUniversity this new revamped degree offers exciting opportunities for students to combine theirinterests in protecting the environment and enhancing the health and wellbeing of communitieshere and abroad,” says Associate Professor Roiko.
The Public Health team will be available at Griffith’s Open Day on 11 August to promote thenew Environmental Health program.
For more information please visit www.griffith.edu.au/open-day