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“Back to the Future”: Time for a Renaissance of Public Health Engineering

Division of Global Health Protection, Center for Global Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA 30329 USA
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Tufts University, Medford, MA 02155, USA
Department of Global Health, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA
Division of Sanitation Facility Construction, Indian Health Service, Rockville, MD 20857, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(3), 387;
Received: 21 December 2018 / Revised: 23 January 2019 / Accepted: 26 January 2019 / Published: 29 January 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue IJERPH: 15th Anniversary)
Public health has always been, and remains, an interdisciplinary field, and engineering was closely aligned with public health for many years. Indeed, the branch of engineering that has been known at various times as sanitary engineering, public health engineering, or environmental engineering was integral to the emergence of public health as a distinct discipline. However, in the United States (U.S.) during the 20th century, the academic preparation and practice of this branch of engineering became largely separated from public health. Various factors contributed to this separation, including an evolution in leadership roles within public health; increasing specialization within public health; and the emerging environmental movement, which led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), with its emphasis on the natural environment. In this paper, we consider these factors in turn. We also present a case study example of public health engineering in current practice in the U.S. that has had large-scale positive health impacts through improving water and sanitation services in Native American and Alaska Native communities. We also consider briefly how to educate engineers to work in public health in the modern world, and the benefits and challenges associated with that process. We close by discussing the global implications of public health engineering and the need to re-integrate engineering into public health practice and strengthen the connection between the two fields. View Full-Text
Keywords: engineering; public health; curriculum proposals engineering; public health; curriculum proposals
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MDPI and ACS Style

Gelting, R.J.; Chapra, S.C.; Nevin, P.E.; Harvey, D.E.; Gute, D.M. “Back to the Future”: Time for a Renaissance of Public Health Engineering. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16, 387.

AMA Style

Gelting RJ, Chapra SC, Nevin PE, Harvey DE, Gute DM. “Back to the Future”: Time for a Renaissance of Public Health Engineering. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2019; 16(3):387.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Gelting, Richard J., Steven C. Chapra, Paul E. Nevin, David E. Harvey, and David M. Gute. 2019. "“Back to the Future”: Time for a Renaissance of Public Health Engineering" International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 16, no. 3: 387.

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