Environmental change, which is attributable to climatic variation, may create imbalances in the natural atmosphere. Such imbalances may have substantive health effects. This paper argues that climate change has had negative health effects, especially of urban dwellers who live in the European region cities. Environmental change exerts costs to the environment. Issues such as extreme heat from global warming and environmental costs, for instance, the increased prevalence of cardiovascular complications have been witnessed in European cities. Based on this foundation, the paper identifies education on risk factors to environmental wellbeing and people’s commitment to social justice as important ways in which the writer can positively improve and/or eliminate environmental barriers to health.
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The discourse of environmental health focuses on how the surroundings influence people’s wellbeing. In this context, the environment implies all components that may be natural (such as air and water), material, organic, or even social aspects that define the background in which people live and/or interacts. Any alteration of these aspects may attract diseases or lead to the deterioration of human health. Ecological change is one of the key issues that influence environmental health around the globe. This paper discusses the concept of ecological health in the context of environmental change with a central focus on the European cities.
Environmental health is important in all places where people live across the world. However, urban areas have raised critical concerns since they have a higher prevalence of witnessing or getting involved in the destruction of natural surroundings. For example, the World Health Organization Europe (2016) reveals that 75 percent of people living in the European region call cities and towns their home (para.1). Such populations are more likely to live under environmental health hazards compared to their counterparts who live in rural areas. Indeed, “urban areas are often unhealthy places to live, characterized by heavy traffic, pollution, noise, violence, and social isolation for elderly people and young families” (World Health Organization Europe, 2016, para.1). Pollution from urban wastes, industrial effluents, and carbon dioxide emissions are critical contributors to environmental and consequently climatic change.
Climatic change and global warming are two phenomena that exert huge costs to the environment. When green waste that is naturally generated by people piles in landfills, the absence of air causes a breakdown of the material into methane, carbon II oxide, mulch, and water with the help of anaerobic bacteria. Carbon II oxide and methane come out in approximately equal magnitudes (Bogner & Matthews, 2013). Further decomposition of methane to produce water and carbon II oxide then takes place. These components of green waste decomposition are contributors to climatic change and global warming. When the planet warms, climate also changes. However, it should be remembered that greenhouse gasses are important in trapping heat for it not to escape into space, a situation that makes the earth substantially colder. The problem occurs when the gasses increase to high levels to the extent that much more energy is trapped relative to what is necessary. This phenomenon makes the earth less inhabitable by both animals and plants.
In the effort to deal with health problems associated with environmental change, the WHO has adopted the concept of healthy cities. World Health Organization Europe (2016) reveals that the WHO Healthy Cities, a worldwide movement, brings together various local governments via the process of institutional change coupled with a political commitment to addressing risk factors to poor environmental health in various municipalities. The project focuses on capacity building, the development of innovative projects that can address the contributors to poor environmental change, and the taking of partnership-based planning approaches. In the European regions, more than 100 cities commit to the project (World Health Organization Europe, 2016). Duhl and Sanchez (1999) recognize the importance of the efforts by noting that urban areas undergo a continuous state of rapid change, which introduces new environmental hazards. Such hazards lead to negative environmental health. Addressing the problem of environmental health successfully requires the identifications of various environmental factors that influence health for urban dwellers in the European cities and elsewhere around the globe.
Environmental Factors that Influence Health
Changes that arise from climatic variations influence the surroundings coupled with social factors that constitute environmental health. Such factors include safe shelter, sufficient food supply, the accessibility and unremitting supply of safe drinking water, and fresh and clean air among others. Indeed, the World Health Organization (2016) approximates, “between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause roughly 250, 000 additional deaths per year, from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea, and heat stress” (para.1). This challenge poses an enormous risk to global populations, hence underlining the significance of considering various environmental factors that affect health.
Environmental change has resulted in extreme heat. High temperatures relate directly to deaths that are linked to cardiovascular and respiratory infections (World Health Organization, 2016). Such deaths are witnessed more among the elderly. For example, the World Health Organization (2016) indicates, “In the heatwave of summer 2003 in Europe, for example, more than 70,000 excess deaths were recorded” (para.7). Aeroallergens levels increase during episodes of extreme heat. This situation increases the risk of asthma. In other words, environmental change increases disease burdens around the world, including the European region.
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Physical environmental factors, for instance, proximity to pollutants such as landfills and industrial effluents, influence people’s health. Besides, the accessibility of resources that range from health foods, recreation, and the design of the built environment affects people’s physical condition. The built-in environment is comprised of transportation systems, the nature of buildings, mixes of land use, and even street connectivity. This network introduces a link between urban planning and environmental health. Duhl and Sanchez (1999) assert that urban planners and associated professionals have an important role to play in shaping economic, environmental, and social conditions that prevail in cities to eliminate the negative impacts of people’s wellbeing.
My Role in Improving/Eliminating Environmental Barriers to Health
As a future practitioner, I have an important role to play in improving or eliminating environmental barriers to health to promote good rural and urban health. Commitment to social justice entails one of such roles. This role implies an indisputable shared responsibility of fostering common good to all (Duhl & Sanchez, 1999). Through its tenets and realities of unequal initial positions, I have the obligation of seeking impartiality while noting that not all people are born equal. For example, if I do not prefer living in a polluted environment and/or near landfills, I have a responsibility to ensure that I do not generate wastes that would find their way near other people’s dwellings. If a waste generation is impossible to stop, I have to ensure that I generate minimal wastes, which I should then look for strategies of handling them in a manner that they do not find their way to landfills or do not pollute both my immediate environment and that of the neighbors. Recycling domestic wastes internally and the use of environment-friendly materials are some of such ways.
Education on ecological factors that contribute to poor environmental health is of immense importance since it fosters change and/or establishes potential ways of overcoming or preventing the escalation of threats. Indeed, such education constitutes a second important personal contribution to easing the problem of environmental barriers to health. For example, in the last 50 years, various human activities, including the burning of fossil fuels, have led to the release of a significant amount of carbon dioxide coupled with other GHGs (World Health Organization, 2016). This emission has had direct implications of increased trapping of extra heat within the lower atmosphere. Such heat has influenced the global climate. If people had adequate knowledge of the implication of these activities, environmental health challenges associated with them could be milder and/or not have been experienced today. Since the damage has already been done, looking forward, educating people on the mechanisms for reducing GHG emissions, environment-friendly ways of transport, proper energy coupled with food use, and air pollution cutbacks are critical in improving environmental health.
Summary and Conclusion
The state of the environment in which people live may serve the function of fostering positive or negative health outcomes. This claim holds after considering the environmental effects that arise from global warming and consequently climatic change. In summary, the paper has emphasized the need to eliminate or address proactively hazards and any factors that contribute to the destruction of the environment since this situation is counterproductive to ecological health.
Bogner, J., & Matthews, E. (2013). Global methane emissions from landfills: New methodology and annual estimates 1980-1996. Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 17(11), 34-48.
Duhl, L., & Sanchez, A. (1999). Healthy cities and the city planning process. London: World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe.
World Health Organization Europe. (2016). Urban health. Web.