National Environmental
Health Association Position Regarding


Working Group Reports on Undergraduate Public Health Education

Adopted December 8, 2006


To Whom It May Concern:

The National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) is pleased to have the opportunity to provide comments regarding the working group reports on public health education posted at the www.teachprevention.org web site. 

 

NEHA is a professional society with almost 5,000 members across the nation. Its mission is “to advance the environmental health and protection professional for the purpose of providing a healthful environment for all.”  NEHA believes that professionals who are educated and motivated will make the greatest contribution to healthful environmental goals for humankind.

 

NEHA endorses the efforts to promote public health education among undergraduate college and university students.  We agree that introductory public health and epidemiology courses are appropriate general education requirements for colleges and universities.  We believe that these efforts will result in better-informed citizens who can understand and even support public health efforts.  We also believe that exposure to public health curricula is likely to spur interest among students in exploring careers and additional education in public health fields, including environmental health.

 

We note that both the learning objectives and sample curriculum for “public health 101” include environmental health. NEHA believes that including environmental health is critical to understanding public health and therefore, is a critical part of the curriculum.

 

We have some concern about the report on “Minors and Administrative Issues.”  The description of the proposed minor in public health seems to have overlooked environmental health as a core component of public health education.  This would seem to be a disservice to students who pursue a minor in public health, as environmental health is almost universally regarded as an integral part of public health.  We do not believe that a student can achieve an understanding of public health without including environmental health in the curriculum.   While environmental health may be included in the introduction to public health course, the unit likely would be restricted one or two sessions devoted to the topic because of the number of other topics included.  We strongly encourage you to consider placing more emphasis on environmental health in the curriculum for the public health minor.

 

We note that you suggest partnering with an array of academic components within colleges and universities to develop a minor curriculum.  We suggest that you include accredited programs in environmental health among the partners to be considered.  Information about these programs can be found at the Association of Environmental Health Academic Programs, http://www.aehap.org/, web site.

 

Many environmental health professionals are accomplished teachers because of their experiences in the field of environmental health.  Environmental health professionals typically have valuable real world understandings that make them particularly good teachers of health-related subjects.  Colleges and universities should be encouraged to partner with public health agencies on the state and local level to draw from their expertise, particularly in more technical areas like environmental health.

 

We also wish to clarify the difference between “environmental studies” and the field of environmental health. The “Minors and Administrative Issues” report on page three implies that environmental studies are a component of public health.  While environmental studies, which typically explore man’s impact on aspects of the environment, are important academic endeavors, they are frequently quite different from environmental health, which examines the impact of the environment on human health, the control of adverse effects, and the complex systems that modify and influence the environment. The latter is more directly relevant to public health and should be emphasized in public health education.

 

Finally, we wish to comment on the public health “pipeline” aspects of this initiative. Environmental health soon will experience serious shortages in qualified personnel as the current generation of professionals retires.  We believe that the programs can be useful in directing interested students into the environmental health profession.  However, we believe that biology, chemistry, and physics provide a critical foundation to becoming a competent environmental health professional.  We believe that students who complete the proposed public health minor will need to meet additional educational requirements in science and mathematics to be qualified environmental health professionals.

 

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on these important matters.

 

Sincerely,

  

     

Richard Collins

CAPT, U.S. Public Health Service

President, National Environmental Health Association

 

 

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