Statement Of Barbara Sattler
Environmental Protection Agency
Aging Initiative Public Listening Session
May 7, 2003
Environmental Health Education Center
University of Maryland School of Nursing
Administrator Todd-Whitman, Dean Allan, and esteemed guest.
My name is Barbara Sattler, I am a nurse and an Associate Professor at the University of Maryland School of Nursing and the Director of the Environmental Health Education Center. Our Center, which is 12 years old, has focused on educational and community-based strategies to address environmental health issues. In the last five years, we have focused our attention on the education of the nursing community in environmental health. As such we have created the first graduate program in the country in environmental health for nurses and have a variety of environmentally-focused projects, including working with communities who are struggling with Superfund or Brownfield’s issues, contaminated drinking water, indoor air quality in schools, environmental health impacts of the health care industry itself, as well as the risks of vulnerable populations to environmental exposures.
Approximately one in every one hundred nurses is a Registered Nurse. We live and work in every community in the United States and are trusted sources of health information to the public. We staff the hospitals, hospices, nursing homes, home health agencies and other organizations that service our nation’s elderly. We play a critical role in the care of the well and frail elderly population.
I would strongly recommend that any comprehensive approach to address the environmental health needs of the aging population include a component to develop the knowledge and skills of the health professional community about this important issue.
I would like to bring to your attention a set of documents that have been prepared over the years, which have provided a well-documented blueprint for addressing the needs of the health care provider community regarding environmental health. Two of them are reports developed by the National Academy of Science Institute of Medicine that provide recommendations regarding the basic preparation of nurses and doctors in environmental health, Nursing Health and the Environment and The Role of the Primary Care Physician in Occupational and Environmental Health. Each of these reports concluded that health professionals are poorly prepared in environmental health – it is currently not part of the basic curricula for either profession. Both of these reports outline the curricular changes that would help to create a cadre of health professionals who will better understand the relationship between the environment and health.
The third document is a relatively new report, based on the proceedings of August 2002 Nursing Summit on environmental health sponsored by the National Institute of Environmental Health Science, National Institute of Nursing Research, and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. The EPA had a representative at the summit but was not a formal co-sponsor. I am attaching the report from this meeting and would ask that you review the recommendations that are offered.
We do not need another report telling us that doctors and nurses are poorly prepared in environmental health. We do not need another blue ribbon panel to develop a plan for how to improve doctors and nurses’ knowledge and skills in this area. We need someone to take the federal agency lead to implement the blueprints that have already been carefully developed.
I would recommend that the EPA take the lead role in convening the federal agencies to develop a coordinated strategy for the preparation of health providers in environmental health. As an example, within Health and Human Services, the Bureau of Health Professions (within Health Resources Service Administration) is responsible for insuring that our health professional community is adequately prepared to address the health needs of our citizenry. If it is determined that our health professionals are not adequately prepared to address the emerging health threats to the elderly posed by environmental exposures, then they can develop a funding mechanism for targeted training and education.
I applaud you for taking the time to listen to the needs of the aged
population and also to those of us who serve this population. As leaders
in the area of environmental health education for nurses we, at the
School of Nursing, look forward to working with you to improve the health
professional communities ability to respond to the needs of the elderly
regarding their environmental health.