The study of environmental health attempts to provide answers to the problems plaguing human health in relation to impacting factors found in the environment. Human life is exposed to biological, chemical, physical, and cultural hazards, and researchers are tasked with uncovering how humans are impacted by the hazards and developing appropriate response measures. Unfortunately, there are many issues being addressed by environmental health organizations, but the following are some of the more critical areas of effort.
Addressing Disease Control
One of the biggest areas of concern in the realm of environmental health is disease control and mitigation efforts. With so many countries failing to practice sanitary processes for the removal of waste and a lack of education concerning personal hygiene practices, there is a great need for improved waste management systems and population education to help reduce the spread of infections and disease. Polluted drinking water is a leading concern in third world countries that do not have access to well water or other clean sources, and coupled with poor personal hygiene habits, diseases like Ebola are difficult to contain in many rural and impoverished communities.
The World Health Organization is the global leader in education, medication, and resource assistance, but countries need to take up the fight against the spread of illness at the local levels, with education initiatives and improvements in the living conditions for its citizens. Western civilizations have the financial ability to invest in resources, equipment, training, and techniques that minimize infection and effectively treat the worst of diseases, yet third-world countries are at a disadvantage in these areas. Therefore spreading awareness and education of property hygiene and how to handle waste items is often the most effective at addressing disease control on a global scale.
Water Quality and Accessibility
As a component of addressing disease control, water quality issues are another leading concern when studying environmental health. Though many may think that access to clean drinking water is a problem experienced in remote African villages or in desert locations of impoverished countries, the Cadiz Water Project shows that there are communities within the United States that are at risk of losing their water resources through a drought. In addition to worrying about access to water and having enough water, a focus on the quality of the water is an important consideration.
Water reserves need to be free from contamination. This could mean that drainage systems decrease the creation of stagnant water or carry wastewater away from sources that sustain cooking and drinking needs. Stagnant water can also be a breeding ground for diseases, as carried by mosquitos and other insects, making it equally important to engineer the intake, processing, and flow of water sources across the globe.
Food Source Management
More than one study has warned of impending food shortage should human consumption continue to outpace the development and cultivation of regenerative food supplies. This past year had seen a shortage of fish, with the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimating the 70% of the fish population around the world has been overused, fully used, or in crisis. This doesn’t just affect what you put on your dinner plate. A fish shortage affects the entire food chain and the ecosystem. Not only does a dwindling supply affect human consumption opportunities, but environmentalists are also concerned with how foods are prepared, grown, harvested, transported, packaged, and stored.
Each country has its own process for evaluating food management systems, working to avoid contamination and spoilage. Some countries have more trouble with the transport of goods than others, as railways or cross-country travel methods aren’t able to efficiently distribute food supplies to its entire population. There are also rogue governments or terrorist organizations that hijack food supply lines and hold the items for ransom, demanding any number of things from the population that desperately needs the food.
Transportation and Housing
While it may not seem as dire as a food or water crisis, environmental health studies are faced with looking at how housing and transportation opportunities affect safe community development. Building concerns, such as strong structures free from lead and asbestos are one concern, just as affordability and location also impact the ability for a community to reside close to employment and resources.
Transportation is also factored into this calculation, as insufficient infrastructure can prevent many from pursuing employment opportunities or healthcare services. Not having transportation can also impact educational opportunities, which weakens the potential of industry development. This can lead to a more depressed economic condition for the community and a more long-term effect on the environmental health assessment of the location.
In addition to these prime areas of concern, those working in environmental health also try to address issues that are related to air pollution and climate change, green energy and conserving renewable resources, and areas of hazardous waste and human waste management. Recycling, green initiatives, and conservation are key terms when talking with an environmental specialist, but even if you aren’t an expert, it takes just one good decision at a time to help change the planet for a more sustainable future.