The Johns Hopkins Regional Academic Center
The Johns Hopkins Regional Academic Center is dedicated to removing the barriers between academia and the practice community, developing active partnerships for training, and, above all, increasing public and decision maker awareness of the important role of environmental public health (EPH) professionals in the Northeast region. Specifically, our center is committed to the following goals:
- Strengthening the EPH infrastructure in the Northeast region by assessing existing and emerging EPH needs at the state and local level
- Developing applied research methods to improve health hazard evaluation and investigation, and
- Providing competency-based EPH trainings and program evaluation methodologies for and in partnership with EPH practitioners.
- Created and distributed the Profile of Maryland Local Environmental Public Health report to over 350 EPH practitioners from federal, state, and local agencies
- Worked collaboratively with the Maryland Liaison Committee to help guide the committee’s efforts to rework the Memorandum of Understanding between the Departments of Environment and Health
- Published an article in The Nation’s Health on the profile project
- Submitted a journal article about the profile report to the Journal of Health Policy and Management in April 2006
- Hosted a July 2005 meeting with more than 15 top advisors from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) and the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), as well as representatives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to discuss how best to expand our profile work to the Northeast region
- Developed an Access database to capture state-based EPH information and provide a template to conduct future, more comprehensive state Web site inventories
- Revised the profile questionnaire to suit a regional audience and converted it into a Web-based format
- Conducted an arsenic health hazard evaluation including a comprehensive literature review, systematic data collection using GPS technology, data compilation of all groundwater arsenic data into a master database, preliminary mapping of areas of elevated arsenic in groundwater in each county, and preliminary spatial analyses that support the epidemiologic analysis of a potential association between elevated levels of arsenic in groundwater used for drinking water supply and the incidence of bladder and lung cancers
- Created and implemented the second Sanitarian Review Course in January 2006 for 32 students
It is anticipated that lack of financial support will serve as a barrier to accomplishing the goals described in our original grant submission; specifically, the completion of a comprehensive assessment of local EPH practice in the Northeast region that would include both a survey tool and site visits to each state.
What Is Next
- Complete a comprehensive state Web site inventory of all Northeast region states to determine EPH organizational structure
- Complete an inventory of contact information for all local EPH practitioners in each partner state.
- Conduct pilot interviews with 2–3 states and localities with a revised Regional Profile assessment tool and distribute a Web-based (Survey Monkey) questionnaire to a wide audience (100–200 EPH practitioners in partner states).
- Continue to work with CDC to distribute Profile of Maryland Local Environmental Public Health report and more fully develop the plan to adapt the report into a model for a nationwide assessment of local EPH
- Complete mapping and spatial analysis of arsenic in eastern groundwater
- Complete epidemiologic study to assess association between levels of arsenic in drinking water and incidence of bladder and lung cancers
- Expand the Registered Sanitarian Review course to other interested states in the Northeast region with assistance from the Mid-Atlantic Public Health Training Center
- Modify current Johns Hopkins curricula to incorporate real public health practice experiences
The Northeast Regional Profile Report will help increase awareness of local EPH and build capacity for expanding EPH services across the region. Further, the regional report will serve as a national model for assessing local EPH and can be used to increase capacity to conduct EPH activities across the country.
Results of the arsenic spatial analysis will likely be used guide the drilling of new wells—particularly on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, but also in other regions of the country that are affected by arsenic contamination.
With future success, the content of the Registered Sanitarian Review course can be distributed to a national audience via Web-based learning.
- The Maryland profile has served as one of the impetuses for a joint practice-academic effort to reclassify environmental health job descriptions (which would include a pay increase for environmental health positions) and collaborative efforts among practice and academic institutions to develop continuing education opportunities for environmental health practitioners.
- Internships for Hopkins students at state and local public health agencies.
- Maryland state-local environmental health liaison committee strengthen; the committee brings state and local environmental health practitioners together on a regular basis to discuss issues of communication and coordination.
- Data and information provided to enhance the memorandum of understanding that was reworked in 2006 between the Maryland Departments of Health and Environment (e.g., strengthened sections on interagency communication and coordination).
- Ongoing data collection effort will help to highlight the need to improve the Maryland environmental health workforce (including additional positions, higher salaries, and improved training); this joint effort will be done by state and local personnel and Hopkins faculty.
- Accepted article in the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice that highlights the Maryland profile findings.
- Submitted journal article in the Journal of Environmental Health co-authored by practitioners and Johns Hopkins that highlights some of the positive environmental health workforce efforts in Maryland.
- Expanded northeast regional profile assessing environmental public health infrastructure strengths, needs, and gaps in the Northeast region (in development).
- Collaborative work with practitioners to develop an environmental health course to prepare employees to take the Maryland registered sanitarian exam. This joint effort includes personnel from the Maryland Board of Sanitarians, Conference of Maryland Environmental Health Directors, Maryland Association of County Health Officers, Maryland Department of the Environment, Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and the Johns Hopkins Environmental Resource Center.
- Health hazard evaluation of arsenic through development of a technical report detailing the occurrence of arsenic in eastern Maryland drinking water wells; work from this project serves as a model approach to health hazard evaluations integrating research, public health practice, and prevention activities throughout the Northeast region.
Center faculty contribute to national environmental health issues on a regular basis; examples include the following:
- Presented at the CDC national environmental health conference in Atlanta (also served on the planning committee).
- Served on the ASTHO enumeration taskforce.
- Presented at numerous national meetings on the need to enhance the environmental health workforce (APHA, NALBOH, NACCHO, and ASTHO).
- Participated on national advisory boards and committees (Institute of Medicine, EPA, CDC).
- Provided technical assistance to environmental health practitioners as requested, including answering specific requests on technical issues (e.g., mold, housing issues, public health law), assisting with grant writing, and developing presentations and abstracts for presentation at national meetings.
- Developed a Public Health in Action Course offered in June 2007.