The educational lineup at this year's conference was exceptional both in terms of quantity and quality. Quantity-wise, 149 educational sessions covering 24 different areas of environmental health, four credential courses and exams, five preconference workshops, and two off-site field trips were offered. Quality-wise, cutting-edge infrastructure including a virtual conference incorporating return on investment (ROI) principles and new educational tracks were integrated into the overall structure of the conference. With so much information packed into less than one week, as one attendee stated, "The NEHA conference expands your vision for EH field and community involvement. I love attending as I am never the same person afterwards."
For the first time, NEHA's 2010 AEC & Exhibition implemented ROI principles into conference education and structure. ROI principles work to ensure that attendees can return to their workplaces with the ability to more than pay for their trip to the conference by using what they learned at the event. NEHA's AEC & Exhibition planning committee and section chairs from three educational tracks (Food Safety and Protection, Sustainability, and Terrorism and All Hazards Preparedness) identified objectives that the 2010 AEC & Exhibition aimed to meet. Examples of these objectives included providing education that was relevant to attendees' jobs and ensuring attendees met at least five new contacts in environmental health to call for professional suggestions and/or sharing of best practices. For a complete listing of all the ROI objectives the 2010 AEC & Exhibition was designed to meet, please visit www.neha.org/2010aec/RoI.aspx. NEHA has followed up with 2010 AEC & Exhibition attendees since the conference to evaluate how well the ROI objectives have been achieved.
In order to showcase the specialist expertise of the unique part of the country where the AEC & Exhibition took place and address breaking developments relevant to the field, three new tracks were showcased this year. The Indian Health Service (IHS) track highlighted the history, challenges, and innovative solutions the IHS has developed while carrying out its mission to safeguard all aspects of the health of the country's American Indians and Alaska Natives. The H1N1 Response Case Studies track presented sessions that illustrated valuable lessons environmental health professionals have learned within the past year about which approaches to the pandemic worked and which didn't. NEHA was also honored to have Dr. Toby Merlin present on the lessons the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) learned, responding as a nation, to H1N1. Dr. Merlin is deputy director of the influenza coordination unit, which oversees and coordinates domestic and international influenza preparedness activities at CDC. The Earthquake Response track gave attendees invaluable insight into emergency response measures taken by CDC, nongovermental organizations, and other agencies in the wake of the devastating loss of human life and services experienced in Haiti shortly after the 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit in January 2010.
Lecture Hall and the more interactive Learning Laboratory sessions constituted the main structure of educational activities at the conference. Outstanding speakers from a vast array of disciplines in environmental health presented on pertinent emerging topics. In the Lecture Hall sessions, presentations on the nation's food safety system, bed bugs, and drinking water quality drew large numbers of attendees. Likewise, explorations of the influence of soil type on wastewater treatment, the role of sustainability in the environmental health field, and healthy homes issues also proved popular. Using roundtable discussion and hands-on activities, attendees gained communication skills on gaining compliance "in the first 90s" and responding to the media and public during an emergency from the Learning Laboratory sessions. …