The Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health (COEH) was formally launched in March 2003 by then National the then National Minister of Environmental Affairs, the Honourable Mr. Valli Moosa. However, the roots of the COEH go back much further – as far back as the mid 1980’s. The COEH brings together some of the more experienced practitioners in occupationl and environmental health (OEH) in KwaZulu-Natal, and probably, South Africa. The COEH was an initiative by the former dean of the Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine, Professor Barry Kistnasamy, who brought together three existing entities in the faculty to create a vibrant Centre. The Africa Centre for Indoor Air Quality (CIAQ) located within the Department of Physiology, and headed by Dr. Nceba Gqaleni, the Occupational Health Programme (OHP) of the Department of Community Health and the Industrial Health Unit (IHU), also located within the Department of Community Health and headed by Dr. Rajen Naidoo, formed the basis of the new Centre.
In 2007, the Centre was upgraded to a department and became the Department of Occupational and Environmental Health (DOEH). It brought together the extensive academic training skills, research experience, community and trade union relationships, as well as key national and international initiatives resident within the independent programmes. College Reorganisation within the University of KwaZulu-Natal in 2012 saw the DOEH becoming a discipline within the School of Nursing and Public Health in the new College Model. The DOEH prides itself as a leading organisation in the promotion of worker and community health by addressing critical issues in occupational and environmental health. In total, the combined experience of the DOEH is approximately 40 years in the field of Occupational and Environmental Health.