Eric William Foskett
The International Federation of Environmental Health was conceived by Eric, who, in 1982 convinced his professional organisation (now the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health) to take the lead in forming such a Federation. As a result, in 1985, the IFEH came into being, with the 4 the original members being the associations representing environmental health professionals in Australia, in England, Wales & Northern Ireland, in the Republic of Ireland and in Scotland. Incorporation followed in 1986 at which time Eric became its first Honorary Secretary.
From that time onwards the name of Eric Foskett became synonymous with IFEH and he made it almost his life’s work to see his "baby" grow and prosper. He was tireless in his efforts to expand membership and to gain for the Federation the status that he felt it should be accorded.
As a well-respected member of the profession (he served latterly as the Chief Environmental Health Officer for Manchester City Council in North West England) he had contacts which he used to the Federation’s benefit; and the fact that he was awarded by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the Order of the British Empire, speaks volumes for the esteem in which he was held by government at both a local and a national level.
For 15 years he served IFEH tirelessly and at no little cost to himself in terms of time and of finance and in 1991 he was very proud to be elected as the third President, following on after Roy Emerson and Ronald G Spratt respectively.
When the time came for him to take a back seat in terms of IFEH, the then Board of Directors, decided that the most fitting way to honour him would be to establish the Eric Foskett Award. The criteria which are considered necessary for this award to be given include a requirement that the recipient has to have made a "unique contribution to the cause of International Environmental Health".
In 1999 the Federation decided that it could think of no other living being who could fit that requirement better than Eric himself and at the Sixth World Congress on Environmental Health in Oslo, Norway in June 2000, the inaugural award was handed over to him, to great acclaim and universal delight. He gave a short speech (not something he was known for!) of acceptance in which his pride at having been thus honoured was clear for all to appreciate.
Eric continued to keep a watching brief on what IFEH was doing and was never backward at making his views known and it was the mark of the man that without exception his views were treated with respect and gravity.
Unfortunately, Eric did not live to see his dream (of IFEH having 100 members) achieved but the very fact that IFEH is still going and going strongly almost 25 years after Eric first mooted the idea is a tribute to his vision and his commitment.
It is arguable that without Eric Foskett’s vision and commitment there might never have been an International Federation of Environmental Health and, had that been the case, the lives of many environmental health professionals, the success of the associations whose members are these professionals and the health of some sections of the pubic would have been the poorer.
MH/MH September 2006