In this weekly feature, the editors of SpringBoard highlight one career in the health care professions–including a basic description, educational requirements, core competencies/key skills needed, and related web sites and professional organizations where you can find more information!
The coordinator of a poisoning prevention program manages outreach, education, and clean-up programs to remove dangerous substances from the environment. Many poisoning prevention programs are focused on reducing the risk of lead poisoning in children. Depending on the program, the coordinator’s tasks might include maintaining a registry of houses and apartments without lead contamination, directing people to professionals who can help with lead removal, and organizing a program to screen children for elevated lead levels. The coordinator is often responsible for managing employees and takes part in handling the budget, including writing grant proposals and administering grants. Obtaining and analyzing local data is another typical task. The coordinator may be directly involved in activities such as conducting community outreach and educational sessions, providing counseling to families when children have elevated lead levels, inspecting homes, and training housing contractors, or they may delegate such tasks to staff members. He may also help to develop new programs, based on available funding and local needs. The job can include policy and advocacy work, as well. Often, it involves meeting with partner organizations to share ideas and encourage cooperation.
Education and Certification
Poisoning prevention coordinators are often nurses or trained health educators. A bachelor’s degree and experience overseeing a community service or health-related program will meet some employers’ requirements. An MPH can be helpful, and a master’s degree in either public health or a related field is sometimes required. Certification as a lead inspector, which requires a short course and an examination, may be needed if inspection is part of the job.
Core Competencies and Skills
■ Excellent organizational and managerial skills
■ Ability to multitask
■ Flexibility to work with many different types of people, from community members to city leaders
■ Strong writing and spoken communication skills
■ Knowledge of public health program administration and the ability to interpret regulations
■ Working knowledge of epidemiology, data analysis, and program evaluation techniques
■ Ability to create educational programs and materials geared to the needs of local communities
■ Knowledge of issues specific to the prevention program, such as lead poisoning risks and abatement requirements
Salaries vary widely. Examples include the low $20,000s at a small nonprofit, about $40,000 with a larger organization, and mid $50,000s or $60,000s at various health departments.
Poisoning prevention programs are located in city, county, and state health departments, and there are also programs run by nonprofit organizations and academic institutions. Although jobs will be different than those in local communities, there is also work in lead poisoning prevention at the federal level: The CDC has a lead prevention program, which works with local programs as well as providing information for health care providers and the public, and there are lead prevention efforts at the EPA and at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
There are many childhood lead poisoning prevention programs throughout the United States, at state and local health departments. When a city or county health department has its own lead prevention program, it will usually have only one or two coordinator positions. However, there are other opportunities to be involved in these programs and to gain experience. In addition, there are other programs focusing on the prevention of poisoning through environmental exposures, including pesticide poisoning and exposure to lead in the workplace.
For Further Information
■ CDC Lead Poisoning Prevention Program