An Update on the Credential Mapping Project
The NEHA Endowment Fund Committee has graciously agreed to finance a project using a small percentage of your donated dollars that will showcase how you’ve provided support to the profession and its future. This project will solely entail creating a detailed map displaying REHS credentialing requirements across the country. This special project is already underway with plans to unveil the map on our website in Fall 2021. Read more about the project HERE.
An interview with our Director of Government Affairs, Doug Farquhar
"...Credentialing is under threat in this country, and that includes environmental health credentialing."
- Doug Farquhar, NEHA Director of Government Affairs
NEHA: How did you and your team uncover a need for this project?
Doug Farquhar: The Registered Environmental Health Sanitarian/Registered Sanitarian (REHS/RS) credential has been core to NEHA since its inception in 1937. As of 2021, 22 states require environmental health professionals to receive the training and pass the test to become a REHS/RS.
Recently, states have been moving away from the REHS/RS credential. At one point 37 states required Registered Environmental Health Sanitarian (REHS) or Registered Sanitarian (RS). Now, that number has dropped to only 23 states requiring certification of environmental health professionals, and only 16 states requiring the REHS. 17 states use the NEHA exam; another 7 use a state exam. The latest threat came last spring in West Virginia, where the legislature sought to remove credentialing requirements for both environmental health professionals and food handlers. The NEHA Government Affairs team responded to these bills, upon the advice of several members. The WV bills did not pass out of committee in 2021 but remain pending for the upcoming session. Similar legislation appears in some states every year and warrants a response from the association and its affiliates.
NEHA: How will environmental health professionals benefit from this project, as it relates to government affairs?
Doug Farquhar: Environmental health professionals need and deserve support for their profession and credential. The REHS/RS is the foremost credential representing the necessary training and qualifications for the profession. NEHA, as the sponsor of the REHS/RS, has a responsibility to its members and the profession to advocate for this credential, at the federal, state, and local levels. The NEHA Government Affairs program actively engages with policymakers to ensure they understand and appreciate the importance of environmental health credentialing.
Credentialing is under threat in this country, and that includes environmental health credentialing. What value does an REHS/RS credential provide? Why should state and local governments require their environmental health professional to receive such training and certifications? These are the questions this Credential Mapping project is seeking to answer.
NEHA: In the long term, how will this project lead us in our mission?
Doug Farquhar: NEHA’s mission is to build, sustain, and empower the environmental health workforce. By identifying those states and jurisdictions that require or use the REHS/RS, NEHA will be able to gauge the popularity of the credential, where the credential is valued as well as where it is no longer used. It can reach out to those states that do not use the credential and determine the reasons for not adopting this credential. This will allow NEHA to gain a better understanding of the value of the REHS/RS for the workforce.
Credentialing often is the only assurance that an environmental health professional is trained and able to perform the services that environmental health provides. Those states where environmental health professionals do not have to be certified or licensed allows for inspectors to regulate an industry without any background regarding environmental health. The lack of credentialing positions industries regulated by environmental health without the guidance necessary to operate safely. It shortchanges those businesses trying to operate in a safe and manner protective of the environment. This project is examining the environmental health credential in the workforce, to learn the value of the credential and how it can be better promoted.
NEHA: Do you foresee any hurdles throughout the development process ahead? How do you hope to overcome them?
Doug Farquhar: Various interests will remain averse to the REHS/RS and continue to seek its loss of status. NEHA must be prepared to counter these challenges, to demonstrate the value of the credential, to show how the public is better served by certified environmental health professionals, rather than by non-certified ones. Gathering the data necessary to prove the value of the credential will take an effort, for the data is not readily available. But not having the data places the REHS/RS at risk of losing its status in even more jurisdictions. By engaging those interests that oppose the credential, NEHA will be able to argue the value of the REHS/RS.
NEHA: If you could share a message with our Endowment Fund supporters regarding this donor-funded project, what would you share?
Doug Farquhar: This is a core service that NEHA provides. Many expect NEHA to have this information available, to justify the adoption of the REHS/RS and the value of being an environmental health professional. Donors, with their support, are aiding not only NEHA but the entire profession. The information gained by this effort benefits the association, the credentialed professionals, and the public’s health. The support the donors provide ensures that the environmental health workforce is trained, professional, and an asset to the public health community.
For more information contact Doug Farquhar, NEHA Director of Government Affairs at email@example.com.
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