EHCON Raises Concern over Emerging Environmental Health Threats

Begins Critique Talks on Regulatory Guidelines
The Environmental Health Council of Nigeria (EHCON) has raised concern over emerging and re-emerging threats on environmental health globally, a situation that compelled the council to commence critique talks on the operational guidelines of the profession.
Registrar of EHCON, Dr Yakubu Baba, who stated this on Thursday at a 3-day Technical Review meeting, organised by the council in Abuja, is optimistic that the review will strengthen the profession and reinvigorate the practise of environmental health.
The guidelines that are currently reviewed are Monitoring of Environmental Health Practice and Service, Delineation of roles and functions of Environmental Health Professionals, as well as Guidelines for the Monitoring of Environmental Health Programmes in tertiary institutions like universities and Schools/Colleges of Health Technology.
Presidential Diary reports that the facilitators comprised Health, and Environmental Health Practitioners (EHPs) in the Federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), States, local governments and the private sector, likewise the academia.
Baba said though the technical meeting is overdue but organising a critique talk at a critical period of emerging environmental threats would enhance the regulatory functions of the council.
He disclosed that the chunk of stakeholders practicing environmental health is in the private sector, adding that the goal of the critique meeting is to reposition the profession as part of its rebranding agenda.
The registrar listed some of the emerging environmental health threats as climate change, COVID-19 and diphtheria, adding that the professionals are well positioned to contribute significantly to the issue of mitigation, adaptation and resilience of climate change.
Baba hinted that nobody envisaged the outbreak of COVID-19 but the practitioners developed a proactive approach in tackling the disease, stressing the need to strengthen the capacity of environmental health officers in tackling more emerging and re-emerging challenges.
He said: “The era of having a practitioner who is jack of all trade and master of none has passed, our focus now is to create practitioners who have knowledge and skills in one or two areas of environmental health.”
To this end, he emphasised that every practitioner must specialise in a specific area since environmental health practise is broad, expressing his determination to make environmental health the number one choice profession internationally.
He pointed out that there are 24 components of environmental health and the professionals could decide to specialise in one or more than two components, which he believed would place the professional ahead of their competitors nationwide.
The registrar disclosed that the guidelines are critical to the survival of environmental health in Nigeria, adding that the council cannot make the needed progress without a strategic plan.
He said that the stakeholders would consider the council’s strategic plans for the next five to 10 years, just as he noted that with a strategic plan, EHCON could delineate and take the profession to another level.
Baba harped on the need to review and update its internship manual, saying that after successful review, the council would commence the accreditation of the interns.
On review of delineation, he noted that it would inculcate harmony and sanity in the profession by avoiding conflicting roles between practitioners in the local, state and federal levels.
“EHCON being a regulator need to assign responsibilities. Four or five ministries are anchoring environmental health issues and without delineation of functions, there is a tendency of causing crisis during field works, ” he added.
A lecturer at the Department of Environmental Health Science, Federal University of Technology Owerri (FUTO) Prof Amadi Nkwa stated that guidelines are meant to direct practitioners towards a successful career path.
He pointed out that the universities are governed by policies and regulations, adding that there are practitioners in the university that also practise environmental health aside teaching.
Nkwa maintained that environmental health officers in FUTO also undertake routine inspection and they would benefit from the reviewed guidelines.
He informed that the aim of inspection is to improve public health in tertiary institutions, as well as the host communities, just as he expressed optimism that the guidelines would impact positively to both the academia, private sector and the government.
The Chief Facilitator of the technical meeting, Dr Shehu Muhammad noted that some emerging issues were responsible for the review of the training guidelines.
He harped on the need for EHPs to embrace global best practise, stressing the need for professionals to invest more on skills acquisition instead of theories.
Muhammad, who is also the Counselor of Political Affairs, Kaduna State government was hopeful that the guidelines would be useful in training new EHPs when fully reviewed.
“Our jobs as facilitators is to ensure that we improve the health of the populace, look at the policies we use in implementing environmental health laws in states, identify the gaps in the laws and ensure we fill in those gaps, ” he said.

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