A NEHAP is by definition an action plan. Its principal purpose is to set out the actions that a country intends to take to improve environmental health, that is, for any topic area, the actions for closing the gap between the objectives and the situation report. A NEHAP will contain commitments to undertake certain environmental health measures.
Many actors have roles to play. Central government authorities have three essential tasks: to improve policy instruments for the environment and health; to develop a strategy for implementing the NEHAP; and to manage, on a continuing basis, the framework for implementing the NEHAP. Regional and local authorities are the main actors in the practical implementation of NEHAPs.
Most of the countries in principle have followed a seven-step planning process: (1) government commitment to proceed; (2) environmental health assessment; (3) public consultation; (4) implementation strategy; (5) framework for planning; (6) government position on priority actions; and (7) finalizing and adopting an action plan.
The Environmental Health Action Plan for Europe (EHAPE) sets out a range of actions for consideration within a NEHAP though the list is not intended to be comprehensive. Any action that would apply would need to be tailored to the particular circumstance of a country. It divides consideration of environmental health for action in countries into the following principal areas: (1) Institutional framework; (2) Environmental health management tools; (3) Specific environmental hazards; (4) Living and working environments; (5) Economic sectors; and (6) International actions. The EHAPE subdivides each of the principal areas into more manageable, discrete topics. For each sub-division, the EHAPE sets out a basis for consideration, suggests objectives, and suggests actions for consideration. None of these is prescriptive but all of it is useful for those writing NEHAPs.
Some countries will have particular concerns which it would be right to address in a national plan. An example is a high incidence of tick-borne encephalitis which Latvia has included in its NEHAP. Two more general problems, not addressed in the EHAPE but addressed in the plans of some pilot countries are noise and chemical safety. The latter is a particular feature of the NEHAPs of both Hungary and Sweden, whilst Bulgaria has a problem with 'hot-spots' of heavy metal contamination featured in its NEHAP.