New Food Safety Training Opportunity Using Cutting Edge Technology!

Article excerpt

Because of constant advances in laboratory methods, more foodborne illness outbreaks are recognized and investigated each year. Environmental health specialists are trained to conduct the environmental assessment of foodborne illness outbreak investigations. As such, they play a critical role in understanding the environmental causes of a specific outbreak. They also assist in preventing future outbreaks.

Yet environmental health specialists don't investigate foodborne illness outbreaks every day. These outbreaks generally occur irregularly. And long periods of disuse can erode the knowledge and skills needed for outbreak investigations. Training environmental health specialists and regulators requires an efficient mechanism. They need to be ready to conduct and participate effectively in environmental assessments of foodborne illness outbreaks. That means they need access to an efficient method of refresher training.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)--with the help of their Environmental Health Specialists Network (EHS-Net) grantees, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture--has developed an e-learning training course to address this need. EHSNet is a collaborative forum of local, state, and federal food program officials who work toward understanding the environmental causes of foodborne and waterborne disease.

The purpose of this e-learning course is to provide training on how to use a systems approach in foodborne-illness-outbreak environmental assessments (FIOEA). The course also provides skills essential for the assessment's success. The e-learning program objectives are to provide participants with the in-depth skills and knowledge required to

* investigate foodborne illness outbreaks as a member of the larger outbreak response team,

* identify an outbreak's contributing factors and environmental antecedents, and

* recommend appropriate control measures.

This e-learning program consists of self paced, interactive multimedia instruction delivered over the Internet. The primary audience includes approximately 30,000 environmental health specialists and regulators spread across 3,000 local agencies. That audience also includes territorial, state, and federal food safety program officials in the U.S. The secondary audience is comprised of public health officials, the business community, academia, the medical community, and others interested in FIOEAs.

The course has two sections. Section One addresses the "Foundation Skills" required to conduct a FIOEA. Lessons include the following:

* Course Introduction,

* Overview of FIOEA,

* Interviewing,

* Observation,

* Sampling,

* Organizing Assessment Information,

* Critical Thinking, and

* Concluding Actions.

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

Section Two introduces the learner to a virtual environment in which she or he practices Section One foundation skills.

Section One is scheduled for launch in September 2011. Section Two will launch as funds become available. Both sections are free of charge to anyone with Internet access and a relatively low bandwidth connection (DSL or equivalent).

The estimated training duration for Section One is 10 to 12 hours (20 hours for both sections). The program uses the latest e-learning technologies to make training compelling, engaging, and instructionally effective. For example, the foundation lessons are presented in the context of a simulated virtual classroom. The presenter is primarily an animated character representing an environmental health specialist skilled in outbreak investigations. …