Environmental health is a field of science that aims at identifying hazardous factors in the environment and manipulating them to improve health outcomes. In this context, environmental factors are broadly understood as air, water, and soil quality as well as physical and social surroundings that impact the health of individuals. This field of expertise excludes the influence of behaviors of choice and genetics. This paper describes the key environmental factors that impact health. It also explains what measures a health worker can undertake to improve the situation in his or her community.
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In the decades to come, environmental health science will only be receiving more traction due to the emergence and aggravation of global challenges that it is to tackle. Environmental health professionals are bracing for drastic climate changes that are likely to exacerbate threats to public health around the world. New studies have shown that exposure to heat might be harmful for heart and kidneys in individuals over the age of 65 (Frumkin, 2016).
Moreover, global warming accounts for better living conditions for disease-carrying mosquitoes that could as well migrate to the areas that were unlivable for them before. Apart from that, rapid industrial growth that seeks to meet the needs of the world’s ever increasing population means air, water, and soil pollution. Therefore, those living next to mining sites and factories might be at risk of developing a chronic condition. Lastly, globalization, travelling, and migration mean the spread of endemic diseases (McHale et al., 2018). All facts taken into consideration, nations need to make health promotion plans beyond their national application and unite their efforts.
Environmental Factors That Impact Health
The World Health Organization (WHO) outlines several categories of environmental threats to public health:
- air pollution induces lung cancer, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and stroke;
- ionizing radiation causes skin burns and can be carcinogenic;
- ultraviolet radiation causes skin cancer;
- chemical hazards can lead to health impairments and even death
- water and sanitation issues are associated with waterborne diseases and poisoning;
- social hazards include unsafe urban planning, high crime rates, and the lack of infrastructure;
- occupational hazards include exposure to heat, radiation, and other harmful factors (The World Health Organization [WHO], 2019).
My Role in Improving/ Eliminating Environmental Barriers to Health
As a nurse, I am responsible for contributing to eliminating environmental barriers to health. First, I could work closer with communities to identify modifiable risk factors. As part of my general health promotion strategy, I could lead educational sessions and participate in the creation and distribution of relevant information. For instance, if the community with which I am working lives close to a mining site, I could use my expertise to advise them on taking precautions and ensuring positive health outcomes. As a health advocate, I envision myself coordinating managing cases of ill and injured workers who suffered due to environmental hazards. On a larger scale, nurses are capable of lobbying changes to protect workers from environment-related occupational hazards.
Summary and Conclusion
The main objective of environmental health science is to establish an ecological balance in the man-made environment and create health-supportive living spaces and conditions. It is projected that in the nearest future, environmental scientists will have to work on international issues such as global warming, pollution, and burden of disease. The WHO (2019) identifies various environmental health factors such as air pollution, water and sanitation, exposure to chemical compounds, and others. A health worker can lead the change by starting small and counseling his or her communities on taking precautions and adopting a healthier lifestyle. On a larger scale, nurses can lobby amendments to the legislation that would protect people from environmental hazards.
Frumkin, H. (Ed.). (2016). Environmental health: From global to local. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
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McHale, C. M., Osborne, G., Morello-Frosch, R., Salmon, A. G., Sandy, M. S., Solomon, G.,… Zeise, L. (2018). Assessing health risks from multiple environmental stressors: Moving from G× E to I× E. Mutation Research/ Reviews in Mutation Research, 775, 11-20.
The World Health Organization. (2019). Public health, environmental and social determinants of health (PHE). Web.