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The Role and Function of The Municipal Health Services

(These definitions are in line with the definitions of the World Health Organization.)

The role and function of the Municipal Health Services

Health surveillance of premises

Residential, business and public premises are regularly monitored to ensure that there are no health nuisances. This is done to ensure compliance with the applicable legislation, the principles of Agenda 21 and the "Healthy Cities" approach, and the minimisation of any detrimental environmental health risk.

Surveillance and prevention of communicable diseases (excluding immunisations)

The section regularly liaises with other sections and departments of the City of Tshwane, such as Primary Health Care, Waste Management, City Planning and Cemetery Services, to prevent the occurrence and/or manifestation of environment-related or communicable diseases. All complaints related to environmental health are investigated and reported on. EHPs obtain samples for analysis and take remedial and preventative action. The law is enforced by serving compliance notices or, if necessary, by issuing summonses to appear in court.

Health promotion and training programmes are the main mechanisms for equipping the community with knowledge and information. EHPs also interact formally and informally with the public on a wide range of health education and training initiatives. These initiatives emphasise the promotion of healthy lifestyles, personal hygiene and a safe and healthy environment.

Environmental pollution control

Environmental pollution control involves the following:

• Water quality monitoring

Environmental Health monitors the quality and availability of water intended for human consumption, and for recreational, commercial and industrial use.

The section monitors surface water for waterborne diseases such as cholera, typhoid, dysentery, polio and hepatitis (jaundice) by taking samples from rivers, streams and sewerage purification plants. Sources of potable drinking water are also frequently monitored to ensure compliance with standards. In the unlikely event of the outbreak of a waterborne disease, the section has strategies in place to deal with the situation.

• Air quality management

The section strives to reduce air pollution and improve the quality of air by identifying, investigating and monitoring pollution sources, and instituting remedial or preventative measures. Diesel fuel vehicles and buildings with poor indoor air quality and are regularly monitored and, in cases of non-compliance, remedial action is taken.

The City of Tshwane has accepted the challenge of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and is involved in the Cities for Climate Protection campaign of the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives.

• Noise management

Sources of noise are identified, monitored, and subjected to remedial or preventative measures if necessary. In the case of new developments, the section provides inputs to environmental impact assessments (EIAs).

In the case of a noise nuisance complaint (i.e. any sound which disturbs or impairs the peace of any reasonable person), an EHP will obtain an affidavit from the complainant. A notice will be served if necessary, and legal action may follow in case of non-compliance.

In the case of a noise disturbance (i.e. a noise that causes the ambient noise level to rise above the designated zone level), the EHP will take a noise measurement and, if the prescribed noise level is exceeded, serve a notice on the transgressor. Non-compliance may result in legal action.

Food safety management

The City of Tshwane Environmental Health Section ensures that food is handled in a hygienic manner during production, storage, processing, distribution and sales. All food should be safe, wholesome and fit for human consumption and should conform to safety, nutritional and quality requirements; and be accurately labelled as required by law.

Food safety management also constitutes the following responsibilities:

•Evaluating food premises and food transportation vehicles, and issuing certificates of acceptability to compliant premises.
•Monitoring compliance with legal requirements, and instituting remedial and preventative measures where applicable.
•Examining, sampling and analysing foodstuffs and examining food labels.
•Presenting workshops and educating people in both the formal and informal food sectors on food safety.

Vector control

The outbreak and spread of communicable diseases by vectors (pests) are prevented by vector control programmes. When complaints are reported, an investigation is done; vectors (rodents or other insects), their habitats or breeding places are identified; and remedial or preventative measures are instituted to eradicate the vectors, for instance by spraying, baiting, fumigation or the application of environmentally friendly pesticides. In cases of high infestation, community members could be asked to assist with the eradication programmes.

Community participation and involvement

Environmental Health encourages the participation and involvement of the community. Communities are empowered through local environmental health forums. Environmental awareness days are celebrated in partnership with other stakeholders and the public. Initiatives such as Bontle ke Botho (a cleaning and greening campaign) are also supported by the section. Clean-up campaigns are conducted whenever a need is identified. Environmental health awareness days, such as World No Tobacco Day and World Environment Day are also celebrated by initiating activities involving the community.

The City of Tshwane Environmental Health Section ensures that every person can exert his or her right to an environment which is not detrimental to his or her well-being.

Disposal of the dead

Disposal of the dead involves the monitoring of funeral undertakers, mortuaries, embalmers, crematoriums, graves and cemeteries for compliance, and managing, controlling and monitoring exhumations and the reburial or disposal of human remains. EHPs are responsible for issuing a certificate of competence to compliant operators.

In order to prevent the occurrence of nuisances at such premises, regulations for governing the establishment and operation of mortuaries are also explained to undertakers.

Chemical safety

Chemical safety is ensured by identifying, monitoring, evaluating and preventing the use of chemicals that are harmful to human health. The use of chemicals, particularly pesticides, has increased rapidly in modern times due to extensive pest control programmes, household usage and industrial development. The unsafe use and improper handling and disposal of these chemicals resulted in adverse effects (including toxicity) on human health.

The section also conducts awareness campaigns, including workshops on the safety of paraffin and other chemicals, throughout Tshwane. In the event of chemical spillages or accidents on public roads, EHPs ensure that people are not endangered by such occurrences.

Client and information service centre

The One-Stop Service Centre provides an environmental health advisory, client and information service for residents of Tshwane. Building and site development plans can be submitted for environmental health scrutiny. Approval is issued when standard requirements have been complied with. Information leaflets and educational brochures are also available.

For any information or queries about environmental health issues or services, please contact our One-Stop Service Centre.

Our contact details are as follows:

Tel: 012 358 4656
Fax: 012 358 8674
After hours: 012 358 2111

Physical address: 1st Floor, Sammy Marks Building, cnr Prinsloo and Church Streets, Pretoria

We are committed to improving the health status of all Tshwane residents and visitors by ensuring access to environmental health services of an internationally acceptable standard.

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