Academic journal article Journal of Environmental Health

2013 NEHA/UL Sabbatical Exchange Award to Canada: Comparing Undergraduate Environmental Health Education in Canada and the United States

Academic journal article Journal of Environmental Health

2013 NEHA/UL Sabbatical Exchange Award to Canada: Comparing Undergraduate Environmental Health Education in Canada and the United States

Article excerpt

I was recently given the opportunity to start an environmental health science (EHS) program in the brand new College of Public Health at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. As I spent my first year developing the curriculum, I ran across the NEHA sabbatical ad in the Journal. I thought, what better time for me to apply for the Canada trip and explore the EHS educational system in Canada? What could I learn that I might be able to bring back to the U.S. to help shape our new program? Amazingly, I won and was given this wonderful opportunity! My hope now is to encourage and motivate other EHS professionals in NEHA to take advantage of this opportunity to broaden their horizons and advance their careers.

Only five undergraduate degree programs in Canada that lead to certification as a Public Health Inspector (PHI) are certified by the Canadian Institute of Public Health Inspectors (CIPHI) (CIPHI, n.d.). CIPHI accredits these five academic programs just as the National Environmental Health Science and Protection Accreditation Council (EHAC) does for academic EHS programs in the U.S.

I was also very interested in the certification or registration process in Canada. CIPHI certification is equivalent to the Registered Environmental Health Specialist/Registered Sanitarian (REHS/RS) credential in the U.S. We made sure our program at Kent State would comply with the RS educational requirements in Ohio during development.

Initially, I had planned to visit all five programs in Canada, but due to scheduling conflicts, I was only able to go to British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT), Vancouver/ Burnaby, British Columbia (BCIT, n.d.); Con cordia University College of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta (Concordia University, 2015) (see photo above); and First Nations University (FNU), Regina, Saskatchewan (FNU, n.d.). I was able to get an introduction and contact information for the programs through Phi Phan, president of CIPHI. After a flurry of e-mails and phone calls, itineraries were set with my hosts.


The first week was spent at BCIT in Burnaby, a suburb of Vancouver. BCIT offers a bachelor's of technology in environmental health degree. I was able to look at both the EHS program and the occupational health and safety (OHS) program. These programs share lab space, equipment, and a lab manager.

On the first day I met my host, Lorraine Woolsey, who is director of the environmental health program. Lorraine spent time giving me my first orientation to the Canadian EHS educational system and involvement with CIPHI. I quickly found out that although the curriculum and course work were very similar to ours, the "system" and the type of student in the program were quite different in Canada.

Unlike the U.S., CIPHI has direct control over the PHI certification process and accreditation of the EHS programs at the five universities. Certification with CIPHI is a national credential. CIPHI also has extensive practicum requirements and learning objectives that academic programs must adhere to (CIHPI, n.d.). CIPHI works directly with universities to place students in practicums (internships) with the many health authorities in Canada. The more direct control of these processes by CIPHI may be partially due to their narrower focus on educating just PHIs/environmental health officers (EHOs) for health authorities. Our programs in the U.S., and certainly ours at Kent State University, have a much broader EHS employment focus. We educate EHS students not only for public health agencies, but also for environmental protection agencies, universities, consulting companies, facility operations, research facilities, and industry. Unlike the U.S., in Canada an environmental health degree is required from one of the five certified programs to practice at an agency.

Another interesting aspect of the BCIT program was that it is an "after degree" program. This means that their students generally come to the two-year EHS program after they already have a four-year degree, including a certain amount of science. …

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