Academic journal article Journal of Environmental Health

Benefits of a Study Abroad Element in the Environmental Health Curriculum

Academic journal article Journal of Environmental Health

Benefits of a Study Abroad Element in the Environmental Health Curriculum

Article excerpt


Experience, travel-these are as education in themselves.

--Euripides, 480 B.C.-406 B.C.

As the impact of globalization affects our social, political, and environmental systems, study abroad opportunities have increasingly become an academic priority both for students and for the college programs in which they are enrolled (Blake-Campbell, 2014). Formerly populated mostly by language studies or cultural exchange students, long-term study abroad programs are in decline relative to the growth of programs of shorter duration (Dwyer & Peters, 2000), with almost 2 out of every 3 study abroad courses lasting less than 8 weeks (Institute of International Education [IIE], 2016a). Students come from a diverse array of academic study areas. For the most recent academic year reported (2014-2015), the greatest numbers were from science, technology, engineering, and math (24%); business (20%); social sciences (17%); foreign languages (8%); and fine and applied arts (7%) (IIE, 2016b). In total, 313, 415 U.S. students went abroad to study in the 20142015 academic year, roughly a 3% increase from the preceding year (IIE, 2016b).

It will probably surprise few that global perspectives are being assimilated into the K-12 curriculum of U.S. schools. According to the National Education Association (2010), "three states--California, North Carolina, and Ohio--are starting to integrate international perspectives into the classrooms." Several states with historically strong teacher college education systems now host universities offering globally oriented teacher preparation courses as well. These schools include Indiana University, Michigan State, Ohio State, and the University of Wisconsin. Environmental health topics for study in such curriculums are many, and include global health matters such as the pandemic flu, HIV/AIDS, natural disasters and emergency response, and global warming.

At the college level, the academic case has been clearly articulated for the skills and expertise of the environmental health professional in matters with cross-border implications. The National Environmental Health Science and Protection Accreditation Council (EHAC) mandates educational content on the subject of emergency response and the oftentimes-related disaster management of environmental health issues (EHAC, 2010). In their college-level textbook on public health, Tulchinsky and Varavikova (2008) provide a clear listing of the impacts global events can have on domestic and international environmental health practitioners. These events include natural disasters such as hurricanes, droughts and famine, floods, earthquakes, and the ongoing repercussions of volcanic eruptions. They go on to cite a role for environmental specialists in the preparation and organization of services for human-initiated situations such as wars (refugee camps), population displacements (as seen recently as a result of the ongoing Syrian civil war migration), and other disruptions of civil societies worldwide ("Migrant crisis," 2015). Frumkin (2016), in his text focusing exclusively on environmental health, dedicates four chapters to the international aspects of population, climate change, war, and issues in low-resource countries.

Methods and Experiences

Clearly, academicians are aware of and addressing global environmental health impacts. The purpose of this special report, however, is to highlight how a so-called "boots on the ground" curricular element can enhance and improve environmental health education in the U.S. Several examples will be explored, including sustainability in Costa Rica, air pollution in London, and climate change in the Pacific.

Sustainability is perhaps the best example of an immensely significant modern effort essentially unheard of 50 years ago. It has steadily grown in importance to the U.S. global community since its adoption here in the late 1960s (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2017). …

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