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The cutting edge.

As practicing environmental health professionals we are faced each day with problems, such as E. coil 0157:H7, hantavirus, multiple chemical sensitivity, and brownfields. Unfortunately, as we deal with these problems, we also face real or perceived management crises such as a lack of trained personnel, lack of cutting-edge information on emerging issues, lack of guidelines and examples for addressing emerging issues, lack of resources, and lack of leadership. In this, my final column, I will address these issues and share with you how NEHA is helping overcome the crises.

How NEHA Helps

Lack of Trained Personnel

NEHA's mission is "to advance the environmental health and protection professional for the purpose of providing a healthful environment for all." The primary way in which we advance the professional is by providing quality training in a variety of forms. For example, the Annual Educational Conference, to be held in Nashville this July, offers noted speakers in nine specialty areas, as well as short courses, workshops, and NEHA's renowned educational tours. NEHA is also preparing to offer specialty conferences: Next fall, for example, NEHA will be offering a Community Right-to-Know Conference, sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Other specialty conferences, on topics such as vessel sanitation and counterterrorism, are in the planning stages.

Other methods of educating environmental health professionals include workshops and courses. Currently NEHA offers the following workshops: Radon in Real Estate Training, Radon-Resistant New Construction Training, and Health Risk Communication. NEHA also offers courses toward the registered environmental health specialist/registered sanitarian (R.E.H.S./R.S.) and certified food safety professional (C.F.S.P) credentials. Courses in development will address indoor air quality, radon in water, and the hazard analysis critical control point (HACCP) method, to name a few. We hope that one day we will even offer courses on our web site.

NEHA also provides training in a variety of other formats. Currently we have six computer-based training courses, 22 videos, and 16 self-paced learning modules. In every-other issue of the Journal of Environmental Health we offer a featured-article quiz for continuing-education credit. In addition, we provide educational resources such as the environment news digest and over 200 publications in 19 different subject areas. The NEHA/Chartered Institute of Environmental Health Sabbatical (cosponsored by NSF International), provides practicing professional environmental health specialists in the United States and the United Kingdom the opportunity to exchange information and acquire in-service education. Looking toward the future, we are working to reintroduce study courses for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and to offer courses in new formats such as satellite down-linking, electronic seminars, and the Internet.

Lack of Cutting-Edge Information on Emerging Issues

NEHA brings cutting-edge information to the environmental health professional in a variety of ways. Our primary means of communication is the Journal of Environmental Health. As an example of how current we are, the May 1998 issue of the Journal featured "A Beach-Associated Outbreak of Escherichia coli O 157:H7" one month before the infection and death of children from E. coli associated with the White Water Recreational Park. The June 1998 issue featured "Grass Seed Field Smoke and Its Impact on Respiratory Health" (June 1998 was when the Southwest was under a health alert because of grass field burning in Mexico). Pretty cutting edge, wouldn't you say?

NEHA also publishes the environment news digest. In addition, an information clearinghouse of experts is ready to assist you with specific questions.

Lack of Guidelines and Examples for Addressing Emerging Issues

Sometimes you need an example or a set of guidelines to use when addressing complicated environmental problems. NEHA assists with position papers (usually found in the Journal and on our web site), resolutions, model codes, and guidelines. Some topics recently addressed in these formats include body art, global climate change, second-hand smoke, and environmental equity. Upcoming position papers and guidelines will address medical waste treatment, brownfields, temporary food establishments, and housing (a position on this last topic is being developed in conjunction with the American Public Health Association).

Lack of Resources

How are you to address your training needs without resources? Perhaps you didn't know that NEHA offers a number of training options at no additional cost to members! For example, the radon workshops, the Health Risk Communication Workshop, the featured-article quizzes, and the Information Clearinghouse are free to NEHA members. An abundance of information is available at no charge through our web site. Scholarships are even available (for which we sometimes have no applicants)!

Lack of Leadership

Of all the issues I have raised, this is the one I feel is perception rather than reality. NEHA is the leader in environmental health! Recently I chaired a panel for the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Environmental Health Policy Committee. The committee as a whole, chaired by Dr. David Satchef, addressed the need for a national environmental health training plan. NEHA will continue to assist DHHS in bringing the concept to fruition. We have been and continue to be active participants in White House and other federal environmental initiatives. Also, we have an active program of federal liaisons and organizational liaisons. Many other high-visibility projects started this year and will continue in the future - projects that will continue to showcase NEHA's leadership role in environmental health.

Another Year of Achievements at NEHA

In closing, thank you for allowing me to be your president this year! This has been NEHA's best year financially, as well as programmatically I certainly didn't do the work, but you've given me the chance to brag about it to the nation. By the time you read this, I will have visited over 26 affiliates and traveled over 150,000 miles for NEHA (thanks to my employer, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry). I truly believe this is the beginning of a new era for NEHA, or, as the Beatles said, "I don't know why you say goodbye, I say HELLO!"
COPYRIGHT 1999 National Environmental Health Association
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:National Environmental Health Association; President's Message
Author:Gist, Ginger L.
Publication:Journal of Environmental Health
Article Type:Column
Date:Jun 1, 1999
Words:994
Previous Article:Ongoing efforts to prevent childhood lead exposure.
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