Saturday, 15 July 2006

Finding Common Ground: A New College Course Examines the Intersection of Soil Science and Public Health.

Elizabeth A. Hodges and George A. O'Connor. Soil and Water Science Department, University of Florida, 408 Newell Hall, PO Box 110510, Gainesville, FL 32611

The intersection of public health and soil science is alive with real world examples of how the two disciplines are inextricably connected. From agriculture to constructed wetlands; dust storms to bioremediation, soil science has enormous implications for the protection and promotion of public health. Similarly, countless critical public health issues including asbestos exposure, drinking water contamination, and heavy metal poisoning have serious consequences in terms of soil quality and soil management. Soil scientists and public health professionals must recognize the important instances where their disciplines merge and possess the skills necessary for integrative interpretations. In essence, soil scientists and public health professionals must view relevant environmental problems through each other's microscopes. The unique perspective brought into focus will foster integrative approaches to identification, evaluation, and management of environmental health dilemmas.

Few college courses are dedicated to or explicitly address the intimate relationship between soil science and public health. In response, the authors have developed a course at the University of Florida which addresses the intersection of public health and soil science, and promotes integrative skill development. The course is open to all students, but will be particularly pertinent for individuals wishing to pursue a career in soil science and/or public health. Class lectures, assigned readings, facilitated class discussions, and guest speaker presentations are designed to achieve the following course objectives:

* Describe basic soil characteristics and biogeochemical reactions that enable preliminary estimates of how various contaminants may move, react, and dissipate in a dynamic soil environment

* Describe factors influencing exposure pathways, exposure behaviors, and health outcomes as they relate to soil properties, soil quality, and soil management

* Highlight important and/or innovative soil contamination prevention strategies and soil remediation techniques that protect and promote public health

* Examine processes of site evaluation, health impact assessment, data reporting, and public communication through in-class review of “real life” soil contamination examples

* Develop critical skills for effectively reviewing, understanding, critiquing, and applying information in published soil science/public health literature

Appropriately, the course will be a collaborative effort between the University of Florida Soil and Water Science Department and the University of Florida School of Public Health. Teaching and preparation responsibilities will be shared between the two programs.

A tentative course outline and syllabus, representative class discussion topics, and potential guest speaker presentations will be presented. The authors will demonstrate how growing populations, emerging health threats, persistent health threats, economic constraints, social responsibility, and the need for properly managed and cost-effective outcomes are just a few reasons why a shared understanding of public health and soil science methods is imperative.

Back to 4.4A Case Histories of the Relationships Among Soils and Societies - Poster
Back to WCSS

Back to The 18th World Congress of Soil Science (July 9-15, 2006)