Environmental health is a rapidly evolving field, and people working in this field have to deal with increasingly complex situations. Many environmental health practitioners need to develop new professional practices and update their competencies continuously in order to adapt to the new realities in the field. A group of public health experts set out to develop this environmental health competency framework in order to give practitioners an opportunity to engage in a process of continuing education.
To provide a common language and approach that will optimize the success of interventions, all of the professionals in a multidisciplinary team are expected to develop certain competencies related to public health as well as environmental health. That, moreover, is the raison d'être of this competency framework, which is intended for all members of the multidisciplinary team, whether their specialization is in health or a complementary field.
The framework is composed of four competencies:
- Provide expertise for the management of health risks stemming from biological, chemical or physical threats, contaminants or hazards in the environment;
- Make recommendations on all public health issues related to environmental impacts, including policies, large-scale environmental projects, acts, regulations, standards, programs and land-use plans;
- Support the environmental health network and its intersectoral partners during the decision-making process in a constantly evolving context;
- Respond to environmental emergencies or disasters with a view to protecting public health.
In the framework, each competency is linked to a set of internal (knowledge, know-how and soft skills) and external (resources in the work environment) resources required for competency development.
The methodology that was used allowed a large number of stakeholders to participate in the collection of information and validation of the results, thereby ensuring that the framework reflects the realities of the field. Their involvement also strengthened collaboration and permitted the gradual introduction of a new paradigm for competency development.
The description of the tool reveals the complex nature of environmental health and indicates areas in which it can be used: development of continuing education plans, succession training and collaboration with Québec universities with a view to training environmental health specialists for public health work.