Specialized academic programs have developed over the last several decades to provide technical and managerial expertise to students anticipating careers as environmental health professionals. A challenge facing many of the graduates from these programs will be working with colleagues prepared in a variety of countries and cultures. A challenge facing environmental health educators is ensuring that their graduates have the necessary abilities to meet complex professional challenges, including the possession of leadership skills for addressing global-scale environmental problems. Through application of a survey, we sought to gain understanding of the preparation of environmental health students in Costa Rica and in the United States in terms of their (1) knowledge of key global environmental problems, (2) attitudes about the severity of specific environmental issues, (3) attitudes about the role of the environmental health professional, and (4) attitudes about skills needed to be successful as professionals responsible for worker health and safety. We found that these two groups of students generally shared professional identities and ideals but that neither had a high level of understanding of global environmental problems. The environmental health workforce being prepared through these structured academic programs has excellent potential for multi-national collaboration through their sharing of many professional values and skills; however, their ability to serve effectively as leaders addressing large-scale environmental issues is problematic.
Environmental Practice 9:179–194 (2007)