January 14, 2021 / Larry Sloan

Expanding Our Reach Abroad

In 2019, AIHA created an International Advisory Group (IAG) to review AIHA’s past and current international activities and prioritize future activities. The IAG achieved two important successes: it identified criteria the Board of Directors can use to determine whether AIHA should engage with a given country or region, and it recommended specific countries and regions AIHA should target for engagement. This post reviews the criteria and provides updates on current AIHA activities in the targeted areas. More details are available in AIHA’s international strategy framework (PDF).

Criteria for Support

AIHA’s criteria for prioritizing support for specific countries and regions reflect AIHA’s two top-level objectives for international engagement: altruism and business development. AIHA’s annual micro-grants process, through which we fund projects that build capacity for occupational hygiene in developing countries, is an example of a primarily altruistic outreach effort. Business development efforts include projects that build awareness of the profession and help train professionals in IH fundamentals and other topics (and occasionally in other languages, if feasible).

The primary criteria for in-country engagement are:

  1. The country is a developing or emerging economy (as defined by World Bank standards).
  2. An in-country organization—either a membership association or an established university program—exists that AIHA could collaborate with to identify unmet technical and educational needs.
  3. AIHA members live in the country and can work through their companies to help us identify unmet educational needs.
  4. Deployment of AIHA-sponsored education to the country or region is relatively easy to achieve.

A secondary criterion is the ability to increase the number of professionals earning their CIH over the next 3 to 5 years.

Target Regions

Based on these criteria, the IAG identified the following countries and regions as priorities for AIHA support. In alphabetical order, these countries and regions are Brazil, China, Colombia, India, Mexico, and Puerto Rico. Although Puerto Rico technically does not meet our first criterion—designation by the World Bank as a developing or emerging economy—the IAG and the AIHA Board of Directors felt that it should be prioritized given Puerto Rico’s close ties to the United States.

AIHA has developed a unique approach for each region with specific projects that address current interests and needs. Depending on the scope of these projects, they may be evaluated by AIHA’s Content Portfolio Advisory Group prior to being reviewed or approved by the AIHA Board.

Activity by Region

The AIHA International Affairs Committee recently updated its policy for AIHA ambassadors. As of the date of this posting, ambassadors have been confirmed for three of our six target regions (China, Colombia, and India). AIHA plans to appoint ambassadors for Brazil, Mexico, and Puerto Rico in the next few months. Other ambassadors are in place for non-target regions; you can view a complete list of ambassadors on the AIHA website.

Here is a snapshot of current activities in five of the six regions (due to COVID-19, there are no activities to report in China):

  1. India (in-country association: CIHA): AIHA’s primary engagement effort has been to support CIHA’s annual conference by providing financial sponsorship and speakers. AIHA’s president regularly attends and delivers both a keynote address and a technical talk. CIHA’s 2021 annual meeting (Feb. 9–11) will be virtual. This month, CIHA will become AIHA’s second organizational nonprofit member. This status extends full AIHA membership benefits to all CIHA members.
  2. Mexico (in-country association: AMHI): AMHI has assumed financial responsibility for funding a Spanish translation of AIHA’s 2019 virtual conference on exposure assessment strategies. This translation will ultimately become a PDC that can be deployed throughout Latin America. In 2020, AMHI took the initiative to translate several of our Back to Work Safely guidance documents into Spanish at no cost.
  3. Brazil (in-country association: ABHO): In 2020, AIHA funded a Portuguese translation of our exposure assessment strategy book, which should be completed in the next several months. AIHA has also identified an ABHO member who has assisted with pro bono Portuguese translations of selected AIHA documents.
  4. Colombia (in-country associations: SCHO and ACHO): In 2020, SCHO joined AIHA as our first organizational nonprofit member. Last autumn, AIHA members and representatives, including myself, presented at ACHO’s virtual meeting.
  5. Puerto Rico: Through our contacts at the University of Puerto Rico, we have arranged for all remaining Back to Work Safely documents to be translated into Spanish.

Metrics of Success

We are making progress in advancing some of the goals detailed in the international strategy framework. A few examples follow:

  • We are now offering a suite of educational products and publications at a deeply discounted rate of 80 percent off the list price to any individual residing in an emerging economy. Price points for the Spanish version of the AIHA exposure assessment strategy book have been reduced.
  • Our friends at APEHO (Peru) have assisted with pro bono Spanish translations of AIHA’s “Role of the IH in a Pandemic” and other documents.
  • As of year-end 2020, all 26 Back to Work Safely guidance documents plus another ten COVID guidance documents have been translated into Spanish.
  • We continue to maintain our annual micro-grants program to support training and professional development projects in developing economies around the world ($25,000 allocated per year).
  • We have created a new virtual section in Catalyst to attract Spanish-speaking members to network online.
  • Through onboarding new nonprofit organization members, we continue to grow the number of international members (116 members in 2018; 164 in 2019; 217 in 2020).
  • We continue to support the important work being done by the International Occupational Hygiene Association and are proud to report that AIHA’s Tom Fuller is IOHA’s 2021 president. An IOHA task force comprising members from Argentina, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru, Puerto Rico, and Spain is currently developing a certification exam in Spanish to be ready in December of this year.

If you have ideas on how we might further advance elements of our international strategy, please let me know.

Larry Sloan

Larry Sloan is AIHA's CEO.


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