What is Environmental Health?
1. Overview of the Topic – Summary:
Environmental health is the branch of public health that is concerned with all aspects of the natural and built environment that may affect human health. Other terms referring to or concerning environmental health are environmental public health, and public health protection / environmental health protection. Environmental health should not be confused with environmental protection; environmental health is concerned with protecting both the natural and built environments for the benefit of human health, whereas environmental protection is concerned with protecting the natural environment mainly for the benefit of ecosystems.
“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, as well as genetics.” (http://www.who.int/topics/environmental_health/en/)
2. What is the focus of this Topic?:
Environmental medicine may be seen as the medical branch of the broader field of environmental health. Terminology is not fully established, and in many European countries they are used interchangeably.
Three basic disciplines generally contribute to the field of environmental health: environmental epidemiology, toxicology, and exposure science.
Each of these disciplines contributes different information to describe problems in environmental health, but there is some overlap among them. Information from these three disciplines can be combined to conduct a risk assessment for specific chemicals or mixtures of chemicals to determine whether an exposure poses significant risk to human health. This can in turn be used to develop and implement environmental health policy that, for example, regulates chemical emissions, or imposes standards for proper sanitation.
3. Why it’s listed here – What is the relevance to Architectural Medicine?
As discussed in the wikipedia overview, “Environmental health addresses all human-health-related aspects of both the natural environment and the built environment.” As such, these of course are important topics related physical health in the built environment, and therefore are of great interest to Architectural Medicine in the awareness of such issues, and subsequent design actions that help to avoid or properly mitigate these issues.
As Environmental health strives to address the many facets of the environment, it can help support the mission of healthier built environments on the many levels of the human experience in the built environment, and also recognizes the many systems involved that contribute to the salutogenesis or illness of those in these built environments. It is also a direct connection between the Medical and Health professionals to the topics of the built environment.
4. Common groups and individuals involved with this topic:
Environmental health is defined by the World Health Organization as: ((Novice, Robert (editor) (1999-03-29). “Overview of the environment and health in Europe in the 1990s” (PDF). World Health Organization.))
- Those aspects of the human health and disease that are determined by factors in the environment. It also refers to the theory and practice of assessing and controlling factors in the environment that can potentially affect health.
- Environmental health as used by the WHO Regional Office for Europe, includes both the direct pathological effects of chemicals, radiation and some biological agents, and the effects (often indirect) on health and well being of the broad physical, psychological, social and cultural environment, which includes housing, urban development, land use and transport.
Environmental health services are defined by the World Health Organization as:
- those services which implement environmental health policies through monitoring and control activities. They also carry out that role by promoting the improvement of environmental parameters and by encouraging the use of environmentally friendly and healthy technologies and behaviors. They also have a leading role in developing and suggesting new policy areas.