Department of Environmental Health incorporates Covid-19 into its curriculum

Anna Bigara

The Department of Environmental Health will now fully incorporate the Covid-19 into its academic programmes. The curriculum will be more dynamic. Anna Bigara, Lecturer in the department, said going forward they would possibly focus on strengthening and integrating the principles of epidemiology and risk analysis, and risk management throughout the programmes’ various modules. This is one of the department’s responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Anna said they noticed early that COVID-19, which first reared its head in China’s Wuhan city, was going to cause a major problem in the world. “In early March 2020, we recognised that the soon to be pandemic would affect our country. In the module ‘Epidemiology’ (study of diseases), I integrated Covid-19 into the sections on communicable diseases, outbreak response and infection control,” said Anna.

Anna said that they were now going to use case studies to enhance critical thinking. She is already applying current interventions such as the international Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programme in water quality management, “but now the emphasis is on how it should be strictly applied and maintained because these provide an important additional barrier to COVID-19 transmission and to the transmission of infectious diseases in general,” said Anna.

The department is guided by the world Health Organisation’s (WHO) definition of what environmental health is – a science and practice of preventing human illnesses and injury, and promoting well-being by identifying and evaluating environmental sources and hazardous agents such as COVID-19 as a biohazard, and limiting exposures to hazardous biological, chemical and physical agents in air, water, soil, food and other environmental media or settings that may adversely affect human health.

Anna applauded the government for taking a bold step about the pandemic, and has offered further advice for the government. “The nation-wide Lockdown was necessary to disrupt the chain of transmission and prevent the spread of the virus while the health care system prepared the hospitals and other related places for possible hike in Covid-19 cases,” said Anna. Anna added that authorities could have in hindsight focused earlier on prevention measures by concentrating on how the disease would possibly breakout in clusters in high risk areas within communities, and particularly vulnerable people as opposed to the initial approach of identifying cases and tracing the contacts.