Over the last year, NSW Health helped 74 local water utilities develop and/or support implementation of risk based drinking water management systems. NSW Health is continuing to fund this work in 2015, helping utilities meet the requirement of the Public Health Act 2010.
A management system consists of documents, procedures and other supporting information for the safe supply of drinking water. The process allows water utilities to document current practices that fulfil Australian Drinking Water Guidelines requirements, identify any gaps, conduct risk assessment workshops, identify critical control points (CCPs, such as filtration and disinfection), and develop operational procedures for CCPs.
This process has brought direct and immediate improvements, including optimising chlorination systems to ensure effective disinfection, optimisation of filtration and other treatment processes, improved record keeping, identification and correction of treatment plant design risks, and introduction of continuous real-time monitoring of plant performance.
NSW Health works with water utilities to expand drinking water fluoridation. In 2014, fluoridation commenced in six supplies for the first time (Denman (Muswellbrook Shire), Berrigan, Finley (Berrigan Shire), Gunning/Dalton (Upper Lachlan Shire), Stroud (MidCoast Water), and Marom Creek (Ballina Shire)). NSW Health also monitors compliance with the Code of Practice for Fluoridation of Public Water Supplies.
NSW Health has continued to exercise public health oversight by:
The Housing for Health program continues to deliver across NSW to improve house function and essential health hardware (e.g. fixing a leaking toilet, electrical repairs, having sufficient hot water, having somewhere to wash a young child) can lead to improvements in the health of tenants, in particular children aged 0-5 years, and reduce the risk of disease and injury.
NSW Health continues to involve in the development and roll-out of the Water and Sewerage Program to ensure adequate operation, maintenance and monitoring of water supplies and sewerage systems in 61 Aboriginal Communities. Regional Public Health Units worked with communities, the NSW Office of Water, local water utilities and service providers to implement Risk-Based Water and Sewerage Management Plans and participating in review meetings with communities.
In 2014 Health Protection NSW staff participated in interagency forums to consider issues around:
Regulation of tobacco retailing and smoke-free environments has contributed to the downward trend in tobacco use in NSW. In 2014 the adult current smoking rate in NSW was 15.6 per cent, down from 17.1 per cent in 2012 and 16.4 per cent in 2013.
In 2014 Authorised Inspectors from Public Health Units and the Ministry of Health worked together to monitor compliance with and enforce smoke-free outdoor public areas under the Smoke-free Environment Act 2000. They observed 98 per cent compliance by members of the public with the law.
Authorised Inspectors from Public Health Units continued to monitor and enforce sales to minors and point of sale provisions under the Public Health (Tobacco) Act 2000. In 2014 they conducted 775 inspections of tobacco retailers for sales to minors provisions, with 94 per cent compliance observed, and almost 2000 inspections for points of sale provisions, with 84 per cent compliance observed.
The NSW Aboriginal Environmental Health Officer Training Program aims to address labour shortage in the environmental health workforce and to develop an Aboriginal workforce with the leadership and technical skills to progress environmental health issues into the future. The Aboriginal Environmental Health Unit manages and administers the Training Program.
In 2014 four new trainees were employed, bringing the total to 14 Aboriginal Trainee Environmental Health Officers in the Training Program under 12 Training Program partnerships including five directly with Local Government; four with Public Health Units, and three 3-way partnerships with Public Health Units and Local Government. One trainee resigned from the program.