BY Environmental Health Officers Registration council of Nigeria 2009
1. Ethics and privileges of public health practice.
2. Code of professional ethics for Environmental Health Officers
3. Job Security Inherent in Public Health
4. Defining the Work Environment
5. Current Globalization in Environmental Health Practice
6. Use of Print and Electronic Media in Publicity of Environmental health activities.
7. Self- discipline and self- motivation for professional Development.
In the recent past years, the filed of environmental health has become one of great interest in the global scheme of things. Man has become more sensitive to the development in his relationship and interactions with the environment. Quite aware of the fact that the planet earth is he only life sustaining planet as we know it its complexity as a system is such that, the balance which maintains it homeostasis is fragile and can be upset by unsustainable human activities which generate issues of environmental health concern.
Air pollution from industrial activities, pollution of water by effluents, municipal and industrial solid waste management, chemicals in the environment, toxicity of food and food security environmental sanitation etc, are concurrent issues and challenges in environmental health practices.
All over the world environmental health concerns are top priority issues in he overall strategic environmental agenda of government. The most distinct professional group identified with the management of these environmental health concerns virtually all over the world are the environmental health officers, no mater what nomenclature the may carry in different parts of the world.
In Nigeria, “environmental health officers are a brand of professional group so to speak, learned in aspects of the physical, biological, social and management sciences all together to appreciate the diverse and complex nature of the living environmental and to apply those scientific knowledge into skills to manage environmental Health Problems.
Environmental Health practice has assumed a profession in Nigeria via a federal act No. 11 of 2002.
This new dispensation of professionalism in environmental Health practice, call motivation for professional excellence.
Motivation for professional excellence is all about the tools, impulses, and factors necessary for a practitioner to perform and excel in his profession. As we are all aware, the practice of environmental health before the establishment of the council was that of despondency and frustration on the part of the environmental health officer. He had no pride in what he practices, lost confidence in himself and a feeling of inferiority complex.
There were actual threats to banish the EHO from practice or at least reduce him to ordinary agent of other professions who are interested in his job. All these were largely due to the absence of a legal framework for his protection and a low- level competence in the discharge of a dynamic and highly challenging modern environmental health practice.
Environmental health officers must come to terms with the reality that the traditional environment which they operated upon is no longer the same. The waste generation, characteristics and composition is not as those of yesteryears: the size complexity and emissions form our industries are different; the architecture of our building is changed with prosperity and new style of living; even our agricultural practices have transformed. We now operate in an exilic environment, democratized, globalize and highly educated. Our methods, amount of knowledge and operations has to move with time. These are obvious challenges we cannot run away from, if we are to justify the name of a profession.
With the enactment of the council act, things are beginning to change for the better. The aim of this course is to consolidate on the gains of the council, and to sensitize the environmental health officer to self- realization, interest and pride in his job, confidence and excellence in the practice of his profession.
ETHICS AND PRIVILEGES OF PUBLIC HEALTH PRACTICES,
The can be defined as sets of principals relating to morals, rules of conduct or moral question, while privileges are special advantages or benefit especially as it is exclusive to individuals or group or a profession.
Public Health practice can be defined as “the strategic, organized, and interdisciplinary application of knowledge, skills and competencies necessary to perform essential public health services and other activities to improve the populations health” Assoc of schools of Pub Health1999).
Public health is essentially environmental health, the differences is much in the use of semantics or the condition of application. The term environmental health is much used when dealing with variables that emphasize on the relationship between human health and environmental factors.
The history of public health practice in Nigeria, which I believe will be discussed in another course, is such that the importance of environmental factors in disease condition, spread and encounter became so obvious that medical control was deemphasized for environmental control. This became the trend and also informed the transformation in nomenclature of practitioners from sanitary attendants to inspectors to public health superintendents in the 70’s and environmental health officers in the 90’s to date. However, development in human societies is opening up new horizons in this filed along with new challenges, which restricts not the practices to emphasis on local exposures to microbiological and toxicological agents of disease along.
To fully appreciate the ethical questions or issues involved in the practice of public health we need to underscore the fundamental principles in there practices
Ethics as earlier defined has to do with individual’s behaviour perception and values as have to come to play in the conduct of his work. This again is measured against the expectations of the his work. This again is measured against the expectations of the goals of his employment. Something we may not have a hard and fast rule, it may depend on situation. However, we may need some checklist/probing question as guide to our ethics in the workplace.
1. Have we applied the best of our scientific and technical knowledge and skills in the discharge of public health duties?
2. Did we commit the available resources meant for improving the health of the population appropriately?
3. Are we serious and committed to the practice of public health?
4. Have we applied the most up to date methodology, equipment and skill in our professional practice?
5. Are we convinced about the steps we take in improving population’s health?
6. Are we satisfied with the outcome of our practices? Etc.
All these are questions that border on ethics or morality that come to pay in practice. Many of them are individual dependent.
It is fundament that a professional should inculcate ethical values that are in line with the code of his professional ethics. Without those ethical values there can be no assurance of meeting the goals and objectives of a professional practices in public health.
Privileges also exist in the practice of public health and are embedded in the various laws guiding the practice of public health in Nigeria. The environmental health officer has a designated uniform he is identified with and a right of entry to conduct inspection of premises within specified hours of the day. With the council act of 2002 he also has been given a privilege of been licensed as a professional to practice and engage in private practices. All these are elements for motivation for professional excellence.
It is expedient that environmental health officers take advantage of these privileges especially of private practice to move the professio9n forward.
CODE OF PROFESSIONAL ETHICS FOR ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH OFFICERS
Professional ethics concerns one’s conduct of behavior and practice when carrying out professional work. The institutionalization of code of conduct and code of practices is common with many professional bodies for their members to observe.
a part for code of ethics, professional ethical also concerns matters such as professional indemnity, further more as will readily be appreciated, no two codes of ethics are identical. They vary by cultural group, by profession and by discipline. There is nothing like universal ethical principles as the universe is sharply divided by cultural diversities and values. In some cultures certain behaviours are certainly frowned upon, but in other cultures the opposite may be true.
The Environmental Health Officers Registration Council of Nigeria (EHORECON), has developed a code of professional ethics for practicing environmental health officers in Nigeria. This code of professional ethical is expected to be signed by each professional member before he receives his license. The code of ethics is a twenty three (23) item document (attached).
The overall goal of code of professional ethics is to entrench the culture of good behaviour, discipline and professional excellence. The observation of this code of professional ethics is essential for the enlistment of the profession in the eyes of the general public. We can imagine how the behaviour of one member of the profession, good/ bad during practices can be interpreted as a reflection of the behaviour of all members of that profession. For example if a member compromises his responsibilities by means of collecting bribes during inspection, it is obvious that whenever any other member comes to carry out inspection in the same premises, similar briberies would be advanced in order to escape sanctions for any default. No sooner than that behaviour perpetrates, the whole profession becomes associated with worth collection. We need to understand that a good name is worth more than a billion Naira, the implication of compositing public heath ideal has far- reaching consequences on the general public.
THE ADVANTAGE AND DISADVANTAGE OF A CODE OF ETHICS
A code of ethics enabled us to:
• Set out the ideals and responsibilities of the profession
• Exert a de facto regulatory effect, protecting both clients and professional.
• Improve the profits of the profession
• Motivate and inspire practitioners, by attempting to define their raison d’ etre
• Provide guidance on acceptable conduct
• Raise awareness and consciousness of issues
• Improve quality and consistency
• On the other hand, we must also consider:
• Whether the so called standards are obligatory, or are merely an aspiration
• Whether such a code is desirable or feasible
• Whether ethical values are universal or culturally relativistic
• The difficulty of providing universal guidance giving the heterogeneous nature of the profession.
• What the point is of specifying responsibilities, given the limited regulatory function of a code.
JOB SECURITY INHERENT IN PUBLIC HEALTH
Job security can simply be defined as that guarantee for one continue in his job until he is ready to move on. As it may be applied to a professional field, it shall connote the continuous relevance of the field in national endeavors.
In the context of this presentation, we may view both connotations as one and same. In actual fact, the continuous relevance of environmental health practice largely depends on the professionals operating it and the job security of the professional operating it, also lies in the effectiveness of the practice.
We all realize the vast career opportunities that exist in public health practice in so many sectors of our national economy. A few mentions will include:
• The civil service (federal, state and local councils)
• The industries (oil, manufacturing, miming, processing etc)
• Companies (waste management chemical, services etc)
• Consultancy (capacity building, technical services, professional, counseling etc)
• Academia (universities, polytechnics, schools of H. Techs etc.
• Ngo’s (UNDP, UNICEF, WORLD BANK, UN-HABITAT, UNEP ETC)
Nigeria is a developing economy with all the striving necessary to advance. As the country is making stride towards development, public health job opportunities continue to open. Industrial development is the bane for economic and social advancement of nay nation. These developments are usually accompanied with increase in waste generation, environmental pollution, effluent generation occupational diseases, and disease factor in the environmental and human waste generation. All these factors needs to be controlled by trained public health profession, and in accordance with national policy guidelines, the operators of these industries needs to employ trained public health personnel to work in those industries to control environmental health related issues. This in a way is a guarantee of job security in the public health sector.
The civil service is expanding, new challenges are emerging, and the economy is also expanding. Government services require increase public health personnel to meet these challenges. As urbanization is becoming a global trend. The service of public health practitioners is indispensable. Public health services are also expanding with urbanization, thereby increasing security of job.
Government is promoting private practice concept in public health practice, as it cannot bear the burden of services delivery alone. This has created another opportunity for securing jobs in public health international bilateral and multilateral organizations continue to develop interest in Nigeria and development. As a result agencies such as the UNDP the UN Habitat, Global Environmental Facility (GEF) the European Union (EU) the World Bank, UNICEF, USAID and a host of others sign agreements on development projects most commonly bordering on public Health interventions. This has created more opportunities for public health job security. The academia is also another horizon in the job security inherent in public. We have today some private school of Health technologies operating in both the Northern and Southern parts of the country the advent of private and state universities are also consolidating the opportunities of job security in Public Health. With these arrays of opportunities, we can conveniently assume that the public Health sector is dearth of sufficient manpower.
Having considered job security in terms of array of opportunities then we need also to consider the security of the already employed. How does he secure his job? What are the threats he faces? What can guarantee his continuity in the job he has taken? These are important issues often not serious attention being paid to. For a more explicit discussion on this matter, let us consider some indicators for secure or insecure jobs.
• Your establishment is gaining thriving and growing
• Your services are on increased demand and is expending
• Your remuneration is on the rise
• Your establishment
• The general public acknowledges your contributions and relevance etc.
• Your relevance to new challenges is on the decline.
• Threatened by another formidable group
• Outdated knowledge and skills
• Your employer not keen about your contributions
• Service beneficiaries not interested in your services etc.
A critical look at those indicators will unveil a problem on the par of the employee or a practitioner. That problem of the practitioner is a threat to the practice. A threat to the practice translates to job insecurity. The problems on the part of the practitioner can manifest in many forms such as those of unethical behaviour, non commitment to job, low education, outdated concepts, indiscipline, corruption, lack of initiatives etc.
In summary, job security will rely heavily on dynamism in practice continuing education, initiatives and innovation, exertion of relevance and public relations. For the security of job in public Health to be sustainable both dynamism in practice and career opportunities in existence will have to be married together.
DEFINING THE WORK ENVIRONMENT
The work environment in public health practice can be defined in so many perspectives. Generally the aggregate should be such that is satisfying to the psychological, sociological and physical requirements of productivity and excellence.
Psychological predisposition in a work environment is the function of the personality of the employee. It is important predisposition contingent to the employee to put up his beast and perform to excellence.
Some of the parameters necessary for a good psychological predisposition in a work environment border on employer, while others border on the employee. However, we can make a few checklists that can guide us in determining our psychological predisposition for excellent performance in the work environment:
• Does my employer attach any importance to my job?
• Is my remuneration fair and justified?
• What are my career opportunities in the job?
• Am I in love with the job I am doing? (personality profile)
• Am I confident in my skills and knowledge of the job? Etc
• What are the public view/ perception of my job?
• What are my conflicts with other profession? (Intra-profession).
• What are the conflicts within my profession? (Intra-profession)
• Is my job effectively backed by law?
• Does my job enjoy political will?
• Safety from hazard, etc
• Decent office accommodation, furniture and functional equipment.
• Hygiene and welfare of work environment
• Lighting and ventilation
• Safety from hazard, etc
USE OF PRINT AND ELECTRONIC MEDIA IN PUBLIC ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH ACTIVITIES
THE PRINT MEDIA
• Public address systems etc.
We all live in a world of information technology; various means of disseminating information exist especially in the print and electronic media. Publicity is a important tool for the public to get to know what you do and the importance of your role in national development. Environmental health activities are may and concurrent, perhaps not much adequate publicity we can assume it has gained. The importance of environmental health activities are such that if blended with necessary desirable publicity activities print and electronic media will bring it and its practitioners to the desired limelight.
One notable example in Nigeria is the activities of the NATIONAL AGENCY FOR FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION AND CONTROL (NAFDAC). The boy in the secondary or senior primary school today in Nigeria can not claim not to know NAFDAC. Manufactures, food processors, water vendors, drugs dealers and ordinary Nigerian citizens are all conversant with the activities of NAFDAC. Because of their national acclaim, government acknowledges their impacts and gives them the desired support. All these achievement are due to the commitment of the leadership and unmatched public they enjoy over the electronic media, the NTA.
One may be right to assume that NAFDAC has only a handful of staff operating in Abuja and the state capitals on matter of food and drug. However, the widely spread environmental health officers also empowered by law on matters of food and water, fall inferior on the face of NAFDAC officials when on duty. This is a refection of the power of media publicity.
Examples of other national organizations who have successfully exploited the opportunities of the electronic media to publicize their activities are the EFCC and the ICPC.
Environmental Health Activities seem to have a greater opportunity for the publicity of its activities if harnessed. Some of us were witnesses as to how monthly National Environmental sanitation programmes were nationally acclaimed and observed in the 80S and 90S. indirectly also the environmental health officer became an important person in the nook and crannies of this country. Even though one may argue that this happened because the military government was much interested in it. However, we don’t lose sight of the fact that the civilian administration and the generality of Nigerians wish for the return of sanitary conditions of the 80S.
A combination of democratic approach, consolidated public health laws and regulations and jingles over the electronic media shall bring even more virtues of environmental health activities to our national life to be used to be the 80S
SELF DISCIPLINE AND SELF MOTIVATION FOR PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
Professional development refers to vocational education with specific reference to continuing education of the person undertaking it in area of employment. It may also provide opportunities for other career paths. Vocational education has related to specific skills, usually tied to imme4diacy of getting or retaining employment.
The environmental health officer requires a professional development ad has been mentioned over and over again. It is also consistent with this mandatory continuing education programme. However, self discipline and motivation are the key processes to that development goal. A professional environmental health officer must imbibe the culture of self discipline and self motivation. Some of the attributes/ indicators are as follow:
• Reading widely and frequently
• Desire for further education
• Innovations and experimentation
• Self confidence
• interest in the job
CUEERNT GLOBALIZATION IN ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH PRACTICE
Globalization is an umbrella term for a complex series of economic social, technological, cultural and political changes seen as increasing interdependence, integration and interaction between people and companies in disparate locations. (Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia). The phenomenon has been noted since the 1980s in the context of sociological study on a worldwide scale. The concept has referred to as the shrinking of time and space”.
Environmental Health practice is not free from the influence of globalization. Environmental threats to health are by no means limited to developing countries. About 80 million people are exposed to level of air pollution that can impair health in the United State. In China, which has one of the world fastest growing economies, 2 million people die each year from the effects of air and water pollution, according to one recent estimate. nearly 100 countries both developed and developing still use leaded gasoline unnecessarily exposing their citizen to a pollution long known to cause permanent brain damage (world resources 1998-99). Environmental health problems very dramatically from region to region, reflecting geography, climate and perhaps most important. a country’s level of economic development and policy choices. Many environmental health problems are associated with poverty and a lack of shelter, fuel and air. Indeed the world health organization has called poverty the world biggest killer. These environmental problems, prominent at the household or community level, underlie the 17million deaths each year from infectious diseases.
The goal of most countries of the world is an advance in economic and social development. Progress in science and technology, increasing exploitation of natural resources and industrialization strides has added to the burden of environmental health problems with those of pollution with pesticides, faces and industrials effluents.
These health problems are of a global dimension where as the globalization effect of science, technology, information in the communication has melted almost all dichotomies in the approach to tacking them. If there is a newly discovered approach to malaria prevention in India today, it’s only a matter of hours it will be heard or known in Nigeria. If it’s a product, easy Trans boundary trade will make it available in the matter of days.
At the level of health policies, international convention treaties and protocols have made our practices of environmental health transcendental over international boundaries. We sign treaties to ban the use of certain chemical substances within our borders, we promote certain practices across our borders etc. All these are influences imposed by globalization.
The name environmental health officers, our code of practices, our organization and our world view of practice are all influence of globalization.
The practice of environmental health cannot escape the influence of globalization in Nigeria. However, what is important is to be able to take advantage of whatever influence to adapt to suit our situation for improved service delivery and our goal of professional excellence.
1. http:en.eikipedia.org/wiki/professional development,
2. MeMichael A.J. Campbell-lender,Covalan C.F Ebi, K.L Githeco, A Scheraga. J.D etal (2003) Climate Change and Human Health- Risks and Responses Who. UNEP, WMO pub location.
3. Robert D. and Ned, K. (2002), professional ethics page- www.