Virginia S. DeHaan Lecture on Health Promotion and Education

The1999 DeHaan Lecture was given by

Audrey R. Gotsch, DrPH, CHES

Opening Remarks by

Dr. Susan O. Butler
Director of Programs,M.B. Seretean Center for Health Promotion

May 4, 1998
Rollins School of Public Health


Dr. Audrey R. Gotsch is Professor and Vice Chair, Department of Environmental and Community Medicine, and Director, Clinical Prevention Program, UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. She also serves as Deputy Director, New Jersey Graduate Program in Public Health, and Director, Division of Public Health Education and Risk Communication, Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute, UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.

Dr. Gotsch is currently President-Elect of APHA, where she has been an active member for 26 years. She also is a member of the Executive Board of the New Jersey Public Health Association. Additionally, she has provided leadership for the Public Health Council of New Jersey; the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services; the Council on Education for Public Health; the National Center for Health Education; and the National Clearinghouse for Worker Safety and Health Training for Hazardous Materials, Waste Operations and Emergency Response, George Meany Center for Labor Studies.

Since 1984, Dr. Gotsch has been involved in the design, implementation and replication of an environmental and occupational health information program that includes an environmental health sciences curriculum to provide critical thinking skills for youth in K-12th grades. This initiative received the Secretary's Award for Outstanding Community Health Promotion. Expansion of the curricular materials included modules entitled "ToxRAP" which enhances the understanding of the risk assessment process for youth in grades K-9 and provides teacher enhancement opportunities. This initiative was the recipient of a 1997 National Environmental Education Achievement Award from the National Environmental Education and Training Foundation. Additionally, Dr. Gotsch directs a regional training program that has enhanced the skills of over 170,000 workers in environmental and occupational health content areas. This program also includes an initiative to train young people of color living in the major urban centers of New York and Northern New Jersey for employment in environmental remediation and construction jobs.


From the Fall 1998 issue of Public Health magazine.

Lessons from Alu Man the Can

At the Virginia S. DeHaan Lecture on Health Promotion and Education in May, speaker Audrey R. Gotsch, president-elect of the American Public Health Association, brought along a few friends to help deliver her talk. Her primary assistant was a computerized figure with a cylinder-shaped body and blue arms and legs that resembled straws. During the presentation, Alu Man the Can visited Nettie Newspaper, Mr. G - that's G for Garbage - and Benjamin J. Bottle III in a video that is part of an environmental health curriculum that Gotsch helped design.

But behind the cartoon characters is a serious agenda. Gotsch, professor, department chair, and institute director at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, has been involved in the design, implementation, and replication of the environmental and occupational health information program since 1984. The program includes an environmental health sciences curriculum to provide critical thinking skills for youth from kindergarten to 12th grade.

"This is my vision," Gotsch told the audience. "Critical thinking skills for youth today will have an impact on environmental problems of tomorrow."

Although parents support environmental education, often money is unavailable for such efforts. Even when funding is present, there is only so much time in the school day. Educators must find a way to incorporate environmental issues into other core courses such as math, science, and reading.

The environmental health sciences curriculum Gotsch helped design has received the Secretary's Award for Outstanding Community Health Promotion, and one component, ToxRAP, which teaches children about toxicology, risk assessment, and pollution, won the 1997 National Environmental Education Achievement Award. The curriculum's success lies in its approach through illustrated stories, problem-based learning, games, case studies, and graphing, says Gotsch. By the end of this year, the curriculum will have reached 66,000 students.