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To achieve the overarching goal of Healthy People 2020, and into the future, for the environmental health field, it is necessary to ensure that environmental health practitioners throughout the country have a uniform set of competencies which they have gained through their education, continuing education, and professional experience and have been measured and certified by achieving the status of Registered Environmental Health Specialist/Registered Sanitarian as tested and then granted by the National Environmental Health Association or their state registration board. These competencies can then be modified to meet the specific problems which are encountered in various parts of the country and the world.

These competencies are found in 6 general categories and 16 specific categories. The general categories are as follows: general science including biology, microbiology, inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, algebra, trigonometry, statistics, physics both mechanics and fluids, epidemiology, risk assessment techniques, and toxicology; communications and education including verbal, written, and computer science; planning and management including how to conduct inspections, surveys, and studies, take a variety of samples of potential contaminants using essential instrumentation, determine results, and establish programs based on facts; general technical skills in learning, teaching adults, and evaluation of data; administrative and supervisory skills in working with people and knowledge of public health laws, regulations, ordinances, and codes and their application; and professional attitudes and resolving environmental health problems while working with colleagues, supervisors, those being supervised, and the general public.

Specific competencies involve the knowledge, comprehension, and ability to implement necessary measures to prevent, mitigate, and control various environmental contaminants in the inter-related media of air, water, and land while protecting and promoting the health of the community and all its special populations. The specific areas include environmental chemical agents; environmental biological agents; environmental physical agents; ambient air; water, sewage, and liquid waste; food; solid wastes; hazardous materials and hazardous waste; built environment including healthy homes and healthy communities; indoor environment including indoor air; environmental and occupational injuries; special populations such as children, the elderly, and the immunocompromised; environmental health emergencies, disasters, and terrorism; healthcare environment and infection control; insect control, rodent control, and pesticides; and recreational environment and swimming areas. (See endnote 5.)

These competencies were established in 1972 at a special workshop at Indiana State University attended by some 75 or 80 of the top environmental health professionals in the United States from all levels of government, professional associations, and industry. These professionals were broken up into working groups and their reports as amended by the conference were compiled and published by the author. On the basis of these data, the author developed an instrument for the evaluation of the competencies of environmental health interns in 1972 and then utilized it again in 1976 for evaluating environmental health professionals. In both cases, the instrument was found to be valid and highly reliable. (See endnotes 2, 3.) These competencies have been updated in various editions of the Handbook of Environmental Health and will be updated again in the fifth edition. (See endnote 5.)

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