GEH1102:      Re-Engineering Environmental Health for Challenging Times

Speaker:           Steve Konkel  




Times are challenging, irrespective of whether the landscape is viewed from an economic, political, or social perspective. NEHA Presidents have challenged the profession to look at workforce development issues, and raised the question as to what the future of environmental health practice looks like - even whether or not environmental health needs to be re-defined or refined every five years or so. In this session, the authors of, Epiphanies from Comparing Recent Developments in Environmental Health Practice and the Academy, USA and United Kingdom, tackle the "re-engineering challenge" using concepts that are gaining currency around the globe. After attending this session you will understand some of the current challenges to the environmental health practice, and be able to define characteristics of threshold concepts and how they might be applied in a variety of environmental health contexts.               




There is no doubt that the current times are challenging, irrespective of whether the landscape is viewed from an economic, political or social perspective.  It therefore follows that the existence, structures and practice that surround and make up environmental health are also under challenge.  The dynamic nature of scientific and technical judgment brings scrutiny and questions regarding our profession’s currency and capability as well.

Pressures exist at the local, national, regional and international levels to cut costs, to promote efficiency, and to downsize; this pressure extends to the delivery of environmental health services and to the skills and competences of environmental health professionals. How are such pressures to be navigated?

The authors argue that resistance to the challenge ahead and strict defense of the status quo is futile and that it is more profitable to engage in discussions regarding the re-engineering of environmental health practice and professionals to meet current and forward-looking needs in these challenging times.

This session will explore the ‘Threshold Concepts’ work of Meyer and Land (2003) as a means of engaging in that re-engineering process.  The session will take a look at the scope of environmental health practice, and present perspectives on the remit of environmental health officers and practitioners in the past several years.  It will explore how this remit may be changing with new priorities of countries around the globe.  This has many implications for the education, training, and continuous professional development of environmental and pubic health professionals.

The authors also refer to the work of Brennan, Konkel, and Lewis (2008 to 2010) in respect to the design of an international curriculum for environmental health.  Using Meyer and Land’s tools to distil the essence of environmental health practice, as opposed to the definition of a myriad of competences that frame the entirety of environmental health practice, they provide perspectives on a path forward.

Perhaps the most satisfying, engaging, and progressive way to predict the future of environmental health is indeed to create it.