What is Environmental Health?
Environmental health is the science of looking at the external factors that can influence a person’s health and behavior. These external factors are defined as physical, chemical and biological factors. It can include everything from managing the use of pesticides to the quality of drywall used in construction. It is a healthcare area that is gaining increasing attention around the world as there are more studies proving that the impact of environmental health extends beyond the individual and can determine the cost of public health care and the health of the local economy. In short, environmental health is the study of how environmental factors can harm human health and how we can identify and control such effects.
According to World Health Organization (WHO),
“Environmental health addresses all the physical, chemical, and biological factors external to a person, and all the related factors impacting behaviours. It encompasses the assessment and control of those environmental factors that can potentially affect health. It is targeted towards preventing disease and creating health-supportive environments. This definition excludes behaviour not related to environment, as well as behaviour related to the social and cultural environment, and genetics.”
When researchers and monitors are assessing the environmental health of a person or community they are looking at how external elements are impacting the mental, emotional and physical health of the individual, and at large. They can come in to do assessments that are focused on decreasing epidemics or childhood morbidity, as well as to improve the overall preventative healthcare measures in the area. Environmental health regulations can extend to cover housing, transportation, food and water management as well. There is not one aspect of life that is not covered by environmental health as it recognizes the interrelation of all areas of economy and community on a person’s health state.
Issues Related to Environmental Health
Environmental health addresses all human health related issues which include:-
Handling Issues of Disease Control
One of the major areas addressed by environmental health initiatives is disease control. This can take the form of helping to build or upgrade waste management systems to make sure that waste is not polluting ground water or causing the spread of disease. In areas of the world where industrialization is changing traditional community living, there may also have to be education programs done that demonstrate public health hygiene. The materials and methods associated with the advances of industry are also associated with a rise of communicable diseases if the people present aren’t attuned to the needs of proper hygiene and handling of waste items.
Food management is another area covered by environmental health. Regulations will concern everything from how seed is harvested and prepared to what types of fertilizer and pesticides are used to nurture the crops to maturity. They will also examine processing, packaging and storage facilities for food products to ensure that all ingredients are safe for human consumption and there is less risk for contamination or spoiled food. In some instance, environmental health may also address transportation needs for food as the infrastructure in some areas of the world may make it difficult to get adequate food supplies to the population.
Water Quality Issues
Making sure that adequate drinking water, or potable water, is available to a community is another key issue with environmental health. Environmental health advocates will also look towards creating reserves of water that can be adequately protected from contamination. They don’t just look towards drinking and cooking water, but making sure there is adequate irrigation for crops as well. Another aspect of water control is to make sure that proper drainage systems are in place. This has to do with the health concerns that can be caused by standing water and how it can promote the presence of disease carried by mosquitoes that can breed in standing water.
Housing and Transportation
Environmental health will also examine the condition and quality of housing and transportation. In recent times, an example of how environmental health helped to change and shape building policies is the focus on removing lead and asbestos from building. With transportation, it can become an issue of environmental health if a community is not served by public transportation or adequate infrastructure so they can reach the services and opportunities that exist around them.
Apart from listed above, environmental health also address issues related to:
Air Pollution and how over-exposure of it can cause asthma and cancer.
Climate Change and its effects on our surrounding environment.
Toxic Chemical Exposure and its effects on human health.
Medical Waste Management which includes prevention of hazardous materials from leaking to the environment.
Hazardous Materials Management.
Global initiatives in environmental health
The World Health Organization spearheads the largest global environmental health initiative in existence. Their focus is primarily on the prevention of epidemics and to improve infant and child morbidity rates in developing countries through increasing the healthfulness of the environment of the community. They oversee projects that involve everything from vaccination programs to water processing plant construction. Anywhere that there is a community there is a need for an examination of the state of environmental health for that community, and the individuals it supports. The impact of individual health is what determines the health of the country’s economy in all aspects.
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