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The Past How Programs Were Started

From pandemics to the dumping of pollutants into the air, water, and land, to the exposure of workers to metals and other environmental stresses, dangerous situations have existed in various forms for thousands of years. Thinking citizens, many times without scientific understanding, have used information based on experience and observations, when available Best Practices to try to determine the causes of the problems and find solutions to prevent disease and injury from occurring.

In the past 200 years, as people have developed various sciences and have become more aware of health and safety problems related to environmental circumstances, communities have tried to find better ways to try to resolve environmental and public health problems. The process of trying to find a solution usually involved a disease outbreak, most often cholera, or a serious problem, such as an air pollution episode. The community typically chose someone or a committee to study the problem and come up with potential solutions. These solutions included new laws resulting in the development of public health and environmental health programs, necessary personnel, and additional laws, rules, and regulations to resolve the problems. The personnel then conducted surveys and inspections, collected samples, and used special instrumentation to determine the nature and scope of the problem. The personnel prepared reports, used educational techniques to try to correct the problems, and then used enforcement procedures when necessary. The personnel also developed new techniques to try to prevent diseases and injuries from re-occurring and to lessen the impact of existing environmental conditions.

As environmental health problems became more complex, as the industrial revolution proceeded, and as new solutions to problems became available, professional organizations were formed to work with the individuals and their departments and industries to provide training and other resources to the personnel. This was necessary because initially individuals were hired to fill environmental health, safety, environmental protection, and sustainability positions for which they had little or no specific knowledge. They may have had considerable training in the various sciences. The health departments and other agencies had to provide in-service training for these individuals. The CDC developed many training tools and provided them to the health departments for use by their employees. Also, as an example, the National Environmental Health Association developed a series of training modules which were available to members of that association to increase their knowledge and skills in given areas. The organizations then developed performance standards and examinations for certification of the individuals who met the performance standards.

The professional organizations also were deeply involved in many aspects of promoting the profession and the professional, including supporting positive environmental health policies and positions established through governments and laws. The organizations worked at national, state, and local levels. The professional organizations also provided significant research in trying to upgrade the skills and knowledge of existing professionals.

Educational institutions recognized the need for new personnel and developed new programs in the specialty areas of concern to provide a high level of professionally trained people to enter the environmental health, public health, and environmental protection fields. The educational institutions also provided significant research to try to resolve existing and future problems.

The Present

It is incumbent upon us as professionals, as citizens of our community, as citizens of our country, and as citizens of the world, to utilize the substantial amount of knowledge that is currently available through the accumulation and analysis of successful environmental health and protection programs and their Best Practices, at the local, state, federal, and global level and in industry.

This evidence-based practice is currently being stressed by the CDC, educational institutions, various medically based professional organizations such as the American Psychological Association, the American Nurses Association, and the American Physical Therapy Association, as well as industry. The concept in fact is called Principles of Best Management Practices. What is being done in other fields needs to be adapted to the fields of environmental health science, safety, environmental protection, and sustainability.

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