David Brown is the Surveillance Coordinator for the Children’s Environmental Health Unit (CEHU) at the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). David earned a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Health from East Carolina University and a Master’s degree in Public Administration from North Carolina State University. He has since worked in the public health sector at the local, state and federal levels, and has been in his current position with CEHU since 2008. As Surveillance Coordinator, David is responsible for following-up on elevated blood lead results to ensure environmental investigations are completed. This requires many home visits and investigations for children with confirmed lead exposure for ten counties in central North Carolina.
When asked how he began his career, David admits that he always wanted to work in the environmental health field. He enjoys the variety that comes with working in the office and in the field meeting with clients. According to David, the most exciting aspect of his job is helping parents create a healthier and safer environment for their families. He feels grateful to be in a position to share information with clients and the public on how to keep their children safe from potential sources of lead exposure. Over the years, David has helped families from varying education and socioeconomic backgrounds recognize the many potential sources of lead exposure.
Unfortunately, the toughest part of David’s job is realizing he is too late, in some cases. When the sources are not identified early, the child can already have lead exposure and the damage is done. David admits that it is difficult explaining the potential health outcomes of lead poisoning to a parent. He reiterates, “the hardest part of working with parents is seeing them realize that if they had the information sooner, the outcomes could have been avoided”. In light of this, David expresses the importance of helping parents create a manageable action plan to make their child’s environment safer, and explains that without sensitive communication, the process can become overwhelming for the parent. Therefore, education and distinct manageable actions are the first steps in mitigating the guilt some parents feel over their child’s lead exposure.
David is a longstanding member of the NC Lead and Healthy Homes Outreach Task Force, and he enjoys the opportunity the Task Force provides to interact with local and state partners and other health professionals. Furthermore, he appreciates hearing about best practices from other programs to help with his own investigations and his goal of creating healthier and safer home environments.