The role of environmental public health professionals in collaborative foodborne illness outbreak investigations
Ken Diplock, PhD
Outbreaks of infectious foodborne diseases continue to affect populations across Canada, with potentially severe impacts on susceptible groups such as children, older adults, immune compromised individuals, and pregnant women. While some outbreaks can be rapidly attributed to localized sources that can be easily contained, globalized food systems are leading to much larger and more complex outbreaks that can be challenging to investigate. Under ideal circumstances, multiple interdisciplinary stakeholders work together to (1) identify the affected individuals and common exposures, (2) isolate the specific pathogen, (3) find the food source(s), (4) contain the outbreak, and (5) communicate investigative information to health partners and the public. Investigative models considers information from three sources: laboratory, epidemiological and food safety investigations. This presentation will summarize the findings of three reports aimed at supporting effective multidisciplinary foodborne outbreak investigations and highlighting the role of environmental public health professionals in foodborne illness outbreak investigations.
Dr. Ken Diplock is the coordinator of the Bachelor of Environmental Public Health (BEPH) program at Conestoga College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning, where he is devoted to the education and training of future environmental public health professionals. Ken’s areas of focus include food safety, public health inspection and investigation practices, and environmental health. Before joining Conestoga, Ken was a certified public health inspector with the Region of Waterloo Public Health, where he was involved in several multijurisdictional foodborne outbreak investigations. Ken has been strongly engaged with the Canadian Institute of Public Health Inspectors (CIPHI), serving as the Ontario Branch Food Safety Councilor (2006-08), Branch President (2010-2012), and President-Elect (2023).