Objective: A healthy environment is integral to health, yet clinicians receive minimal environmental health training, missing repeated opportunities for preventive counseling. To address educational gaps and examine the usefulness of online education in environmental health, a 6-hour online course, Environmental
Health: An Integrative Approach was developed for healthcare practitioners. The objective of this study was to evaluate the feasibility and effectiveness of the course.
Methods: This was a within subjects longitudinal study examining change in medical knowledge, beliefs and attitudes toward environmental health topics, attitude toward the importance of conducting an environmental health history, barriers to conducting an environmental health history and confidence in environmental health history assessment skills.. Participants included physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners and other healthcare providers. Measures were completed prior to the course, upon completion, and at a 30-day follow-up. A course evaluation survey assessing educational quality, personal benefit/improved patient care, meeting course expectations, faculty expertise, and course completion time was completed. Data were collected 2012-2013 and analyzed in 2013-2014.
Results: Evaluation results indicate the online format and content were well-received, easily implemented, met learners’ expectations, and completed in a manageable timeframe (N=436). Participants evidenced positive pre-post changes in attitudes toward environmental health issues, taking an environmental health history, and confidence in conducting an environmental health history (N=478; P < .007). Positive changes were maintained at follow-up for attitudes and confidence (N=344; P < .001); however reductions in some history taking barriers were not maintained.
Conclusion: An online curriculum is a promising method for delivering a foundational environmental health education course to diverse healthcare professionals. Further study is needed to assess best methods for translation of the curriculum into effective clinical practice and improved patient outcomes.
Hilary McClafferty, Audrey Brooks J, Sally Dodds and Victoria Maizes
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