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Environmental Change Effects on Health

How Florence Nightingale’s legacy has influenced my perception of the Millennium Goals

Based on Nightingale’s influence, I feel that developing the Millennium Development Goals by the UN is a significant milestone in alleviating inequitable access to healthcare, education, food, and water among other resources (Brinks, 2013). These social factors influence each person despite their race, age, or religion. Thus, acknowledging that all individuals are interlinked and dependent on each other is the basis of actualizing these goals.

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Nightingale advocated for equal, a safe and caring environment that has remained unchanged (Brinks, 2013). The principles and practices advocated by Nightingale have enhanced my care-giving skills. Besides, the idea of being a health educator, a change agent, or a transformational leader never came to my mind until I read Nightingale’s letters about nursing practice and education. Similarly, the way Nightingale managed to transform the nursing profession through innovation and leadership provides hope that greater milestones can be achieved given the abundance of resources in the 21st century.

Millennium goals that one can advance in their role as a nurse

The millennium goals include:

  • Reducing child mortality rate- this goal targeted to reduce child mortality by three -quarters by 2015 (Ravallion, 2007). Despite the many changes, it is evident that this milestone is yet to be attained. The risk of child mortality has been very high due to the lack of quality health care. As a nurse, one has to strengthen health care by advocating policies and approaches that work, are inclusive, and affordable. The nurse should monitor and explore the burden of child ill health and its consequence on the communities. In this light, nurses will be compelled to empathize with the affected and focus on quality health care provision.
  • Improve maternal health- maternal health refers to the health of women during and after pregnancy. Although motherhood is viewed as fulfilling, many women experience pain, bad health, and even death. Nurses should advocate investment in maternal health care facilities by identifying the socio-economic significance and stressing maternal health as a human right and equity issue.
  • Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases – Nurses should forge effective partnerships in a bid to ensure the appropriate use of scarce resources to combat persisting diseases. Besides, nurses should organize and coordinate research that aims at unearthing clinical solutions and alternative intervention measures to these persisting diseases, particularly among the underprivileged populations (Ravallion, 2007).

Give two to three examples of how your community of nurses collectively or individually can help advance the UN Goals

The nurse has an individual as well as collective roles to play toward attaining the UN Goals. These roles include:

  • Health educators- nurses as health educators act a vital role in promoting global health. Creating health awareness is a core part of the nurse’s practice in the community, learning institutions, health care premises, and homes. Health education entails not only giving critical information but also promoting health-related behavior change. The nurse can use health education approaches to help people attain good health in a manner that fits their lifestyles and beliefs (Waynor& Dolce, 2015).
  • Advocate/change agent-nurses should be at the forefront of challenging the status quo in health care. Thus, nurses should help the community, hospitals, and other health stakeholders to understand why change is inevitable and how it benefits everyone. Consequently, nurses assist in achieving meaningful changes in the quality and safety of healthcare.
  • Caregiver- the nurse serves as the key contributor to the delivery of quality healthcare. Since socio-economic development is associated with the quality of health care, it is evident that proper interplay of the individual and collective roles of nurses leads to attaining the UN health Goals (Ravallion, 2007).


A myriad of research about the health effects of climate change has been published for the last decade. This paper builds on the existing literature seeking to quantify the health effects of environmental changes. Undoubtedly, environmental change is influencing many factors in human health. For instance, weather patterns are unpredictable and temperatures all over the globe are rising. The current global climate change predictions suggest that the continued emissions scenario will continue to exacerbate the health effects of environmental change.

This analysis explores the vulnerable populations as well as the main consequences of climate change on human health. However, adverse health effects can be reduced or evaded with well-articulated intervention and adaptation approaches. Thus, the role of the nurse in eliminating environmental barriers to health will be addressed.


Research suggests that environmental change may pose an array of direct and indirect effects on human health (Waynor & Dolce, 2015). These problems are linked to adverse heat waves, irregular precipitation leading to floods and droughts, rising sea levels, and deteriorating air quality. These changes may lead to the social, physical, and psychological instability of humans. Appropriate approaches for intervening and adapting to environmental change can prevent sickness and even death. These strategies also help conserve the environment as well as the wellbeing of the coming generations.

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During the last decade, there has been an annual estimate of 12.6 million deaths due to people living in hazardous environments (Huby & Adams, 2008). The discipline of environmental health has focused on identifying the environmental risk factors that are attributable to about a quarter of the global disease burden. For instance, nurse practitioners focus on facilitating safe water sources, quality hygiene standards, and better handling of toxic materials. Similarly, an active role in industries such as agriculture, transport, and energy is needed. However, these industries need to collaborate with the health sectors to evaluate primary climate and social determinants of ill health and especially that extend beyond the management of the health industry (Heymann, 2005).

Due to the unpredictable weather patterns, it is expected that environmental change will continue to pose a myriad of direct and indirect effects on human health. For instance, ground-level ozone that is vulnerable to unstable environmental changes has significant effects on respiratory health (Hampton, 2006). It is against this backdrop that this paper seeks to address the direct health effects of climate change, even though indirect effects are also acknowledged and examined lightly.

The first section will analyze the environmental factors that affect health including temperature, air pollution, water, and floods. The second section evaluates the role of a nurse in reducing or eliminating environmental barriers to health. The primary roles include an investigator, advocate, collaborator, and educator. The last section offers a summary of the important aspects discussed in the paper. Ideally, this paper will show that, for effective intervention for environmental health-related issues, nurses must realize how to work in interdisciplinary teams.

Environmental factors that impact health


Health burdens attributable to extreme heat waves and low temperatures are increasing. Heat-related mortality, particularly among the newborns and the aged is projected to rise steeply if intervention measures are not taken (Heymann, 2005). Cold-related deaths are as well expected to spike due to the emerging irregularities in weather patterns. Radioactivity is linked to health complications including cancer notably leukemia. These effects are expected to persist in the absence of any clinical or behavioral adaptation of the vulnerable populations to changing temperatures.

Air pollution

Man activities have increasingly contributed to the concentrations of particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide among other greenhouse gasses that lead to depletion of the ozone layer. Health concerns associated with health pollution include asthma, bronchitis, and lung cancer among other respiratory-related diseases.


Most health hazards come from water. Lead from water pipes made of the same material can leach into the water. This lead effect can have a substantial harmful impact on neurological function. Other effects arise from human toxins added to the water via human activities such as agriculture and transport. Domestic water supplies can be contaminated with harmful substances due to the poor disposal of solid waste. This aspect may lead to waterborne or airborne related diseases such as cholera and typhoid.


The health effects of floods include both direct and indirect consequences. Direct effects include physical trauma resulting from displacement and loss of lives or property and drowning. Indirect include health effects leading to contamination of water and exposure to prolonged drought. Over the last decade, floods have led to more than 1000 deaths and affected about 3.5 million others in Europe (Waynor & Dolce, 2015). Furthermore, floods are also attributed to the outbreak and spread of infectious diseases.

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My role in improving/eliminating environmental barriers to health

Environmental barriers to health are intimidating and integral part of the nurse’s role in planning, assessment, diagnosis, and evaluation elements of nursing practice. Unfortunately, environmental factors that influence health are often undermined during patient assessments. When these factors are ignored, an opportunity for intervention and adaptation is missed, and public health is compromised. Nurses should perform the various roles to minimize or stop ill-health related to environmental changes:

  1. serve as investigator,
  2. serve as an advocate,
  3. serve as a collaborator,
  4. serve as an educator.

Nurses as investigators should serve by examining environmental health based histories and identifying patterns in vulnerability to illness or injury (Huby & Adams, 2008). Nurses should be informed about environmental issues that affect health. The nurse should cooperate with agencies to investigate if a certain environmental exposure is influencing the wellbeing of a community. This role may entail making visits to homes and worksites to evaluate conditions that influence health and safety.

Nurses are mandated by engaging members of other industries or departments to create a shared goal. For instance, nurses bridge a patient’s need to access the physician. Even though many nurses are familiar with advocacy related to the health care premises, advocacy that extends beyond the health care context is a new phenomenon to many nurses. Thus, nursing preparation should incorporate a wider range of advocacy activities.

Nurses as advocates should pioneer policies seeking to promote adaptation to extreme temperatures. Nurses should advocate and implement seasonal flu vaccination activities. The nurse should advocate warning systems based on air pollution by providing air pollution awareness focusing on vulnerable groups such as the aged and people with pre-existing illness (Huby & Adams, 2008).

Nurses as collaborators should forge relationships with relevant bodies to ensure continued implementation of epidemiological and toxicological investigation of the variety and intensity of health effects of ozone (Ravallion, 2007). Nurses should offer guidelines targeting vulnerable audiences on how to regulate their sun exposure due to the sensitivity of their skin since most people are not aware of the health effects of increased exposure to ultraviolet rays. Besides, nurses should plan for extreme weather conditions by providing quality health care to vulnerable populations.

Nurses as educators for a long time have taught patients a variety of health and safety measures. For example, nurses teach patients how to self-medicate, the possible side effects of drugs, and the essence of exercise in ensuring good health. This role should be widened to cover educating the community concerning the negative effects of environmental dangers. For example, nurses should facilitate education to show the effect of heat and dehydration during spells of extreme heat. Nurses should also conduct epidemiological research to gain a better understanding of the relationship between variations in temperature and human health (Huby & Adams, 2008).

Summary and conclusion

Regardless of their practice roles, nurses must be acquitted to recognize the preliminary signs of illness linked to exposure to environmental dangers. Nurses can advance public health by closing the gap between scientific information and public comprehension of environmental health hazards. This goal can be achieved if nurses serve the role of investigator, advocate, collaborator, and educator. The nurse should build on interpersonal and communication skills to ensure effective linkage among environmentalists, clinicians, and the public in addressing the health effects of environmental change.


Brinks, K. (2013).Illuminating Florence: Finding Nightingale’s legacy in your practice. Journal of Radiology Nursing, 32(4), 183-184.

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Hampton, T. (2006). Researchers study health effects of environmental change. JAMA, 296(8), 912-913.

Heymann, D. (2005). Social, behavioral, and environmental factors and their impact on infectious disease outbreaks. Journal of Public Health Policy, 26(1), 133-139.

Huby, M., & Adams, R. (2008).Interdisciplinary and participatory approaches to environmental health. Environmental Geochemical Health, 31(2), 219-226.

Ravallion, M. (2007). Achieving child-health-related millennium development goals: the role of infrastructure- A comment. World Development, 35(5), 920-928.

Waynor, W., & Dolce, J. (2015). Improving employment outcomes in Assertive Community Treatment (ACT): The role of the ACT Nurse. Journal of Psychosocial Nursing Mental Health Services, 53(7), 31-37.

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