A. Environmental Health: Definition
WHO also addresses the multiple theories and practices of assessing, correcting, controlling, and preventing the factors found in the environment that have the potential to adversely affect the health of present and future generations. Furthermore, it is the goal of WHO to achieve safe, sustainable, and health-enhancing human environments, free of biological, chemical, and physical hazards, and secure from the adverse effects of global and local environmental threats.
Admittedly, that is quite a lot of information to take in all at once. Therefore, we will present a simplified idea of how the health of the public and the quality of the environment are intertwined.
This type of definition works well for WHO, whose job is to study the health components connected with environmental factors and, in learning the intricacies of such, develop national policies, action plans, and legal and regulatory frameworks for remedying the terrible conditions found in the environment.
B. Environmental Health: Conditions
To better understand some of the specific environmental conditions that can have both a negative and a positive impact upon health, we will breakdown the individual categories composing the environment: atmosphere, chemicals, diseases, drinking water, environmental change, food, lifestyle, and radiation, and cite topical examples of each.
Atmosphere. While there are a host of topics that fall under this heading, probably the most significant as of late is that of climate change and global warming.
Though there is a good deal of controversy surrounding the topic of global warming, the core aspect of this condition is that human activities are significantly increasing the concentrations of select gases in the atmosphere, like greenhouse gases, mainly carbon dioxide (CO2), which causes warming of the earth's surface, and anthropogenic aerosols, which cools it.
In short, as a result of temperatures continuing to rise at a steady rate all over the world, much damage is being done to the environment, especially in Arctic regions where melting is leaving polar bears without snow, ice, icebergs, or glaciers, hence, essentially without a home.
|Note: The FDA does, however, regulate game meats, such as venison, ostrich, and snake.|
Radiation. Power lines, power plants such as Chernobyl, and static fields are all three entities with the power to do good. Yet, in some situations they may also pose health risks.
While electrostatic fields commonly take the form of currents and friction, when channeled into more powerfully concentrated forms, such as DC currents and brain scans (magnetic resonance imaging, or MRIs), medical researchers have found reasons to further study the negative impact it can have upon humans.
|Note: In the 110th Congress, environmental leaders hosted a teleconference to look ahead to the central issues that they expect to focus on in the coming year. The following were identified as being priorities: climate change, energy conservation, protection of endangered species, fisheries conservation, and mining.|
The tracking of environmental public health trends is the ongoing collection, integration, analysis, and interpretation of data based upon the following factors:
- environmental hazards;
- exposure to environmental hazards;
- health effects potentially related to exposure to environmental hazards.
D. Environmental Health: Advocacy Groups
American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO). Lobbying group that advocates on behalf of employees or workers for such things as better working conditions, economic justice, and the employment of fair and ethical practices.
The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO). A public health law association whose purpose is to advance the use and understanding of law to protect and improve the public's health. Its mission is to promote healthy people and healthy communities through dialogue, partnerships, education, and research in public health law.
The Clean Air Council (CAC). A member-supported, nonprofit environmental organization, the council is dedicated to protecting everyone's right to breathe clean air. The council works through public education, community advocacy, and government oversight to ensure enforcement of environmental laws.
Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP). A journal produced by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, it serves as a forum for the discussion of the interrelationships between the environment and human health.
Environmental Health Services-Net (EHS-Net). A branch of the CDC, essentially, this is a network of environmental health specialists whose mission is to improve environmental health.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Established in 1970 as a joint venture between the White House and Congress, the mission of the EPA is to protect human health and the environment. Since its inception, the EPA has strived to attain a cleaner, healthier environment for the American people.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The federal government agency responsible for protecting the public health by ensuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, medical devices, the nation's food supply, cosmetics, and products that emit radiation. It does not regulate alcohol, traditional meat or poultry (except wild game, such as, ostrich, snake, and venison), tobacco, drinking water, grocery stores, or restaurants.
In addition, the FDA is also charged with the advancement of public health by increasing the speed by which medicinal innovations and foods can be made more effective, safer, and affordable. It also provides the public with accurate, science-based information to improve health.
National Environmental Trust (NET). A nonprofit, nonpartisan organization formed for the purpose of relaying timely information to citizens about environmental problems and the impact they potentially have upon the public's health and quality of life.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Part of the U.S. Department of Labor, OSHA's mission is to assure the safety and health of America's workers by setting and enforcing standards, providing training, outreach, and education, establishing partnerships, and encouraging continual improvement in workplace safety and health.
Public Health Information Network (PHIN). This division of the CDC mounts disease surveillance studies from which they compile national health data and provide data analysis. The major thrust of PHIN is to unite the many organizations and functions within the world of public health to create a reliable, information network capable of supporting the current and emerging needs of public health.