It's About Communities: The Commitment to Promoting a Culturally Competent Environmental Health Workforce.

Author:Pinion, Clint, Jr.

"Environmental health and public health are profoundly local." This expression is frequently spoken by Dr. David Dyjack, executive director of the National Environmental Health Association. The Association of Environmental Health Academic Programs

(AEHAP) firmly agrees and for this reason, it is important to have local environmental health experts who know the pulse of their communities. AEHAP believes in supporting the advanced scientific education of environmental health in these communities through people from these communities. Accordingly, AEHAP has sought to promote and support accredited environmental health programs among a diverse cross-section of the U.S. higher education landscape. AEHAP's students are diverse in many ways, including socio-economically, racially, ethnically, and culturally. We still have further to go to enhance diversity within our member programs. We remain proud, however, of our people, our programs, and the communities our programs serve.

Summarizing the annual undergraduate and 3-year graduate program survey data provided by the National Environmental Health Science & Protection Accreditation Council (EHAC), racially and/or ethnically diverse students represent 37% and 48% of enrolled undergraduate and graduate students, respectively. For the 2017-2018 enrollment year, 39% of undergraduates were described as contributing to diversity (Figure 1). A more detailed description of student racial and ethnic groups is provided in Tables 1 and 2. In addition, 56% of the student population from the undergraduate and graduate programs is female. Female students have been the majority since 2008.

AEHAP's mission is to advance a 21st century science-based educational model that develops culturally competent environmental health scientists. The mission is aligned with current efforts by higher learning institutions to ensure college graduates are competent members of local, national, and global communities. College students are now expected to not only traverse a rigorous curriculum to gain foundational knowledge but also acquire practical skills to enable them to identify and address current and emerging issues.

Graduates from environmental and public health programs often will work in communities that are culturally different from the cities and towns in which they were raised (Galea, 2015). Working with diverse populations is essential as environmental and public health practitioners aim to tackle issues of social injustice and work toward health equity for all community members, regardless of disposition. Ensuring college graduate preparedness, according to the Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U), requires colleges and universities to implement four learning outcomes in all majors: 1) cultural and global awareness (i.e., cultural competency), 2) mastery of knowledge-based and applied skills, 3) integrative learning, and 4) personal and social responsibility (Kilgo...

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