This paper focuses on the principal factors which contribute to the adverse environmental change. The purpose of this study is to investigate the possible outcomes of these changes for environmental health. The scholarly literature is used to provide statistics and support to the arguments. Also, a personal perspective on the improvement of the situation and eliminating the environmental barriers to health is provided.
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One can hardly doubt that the contemporary environment is a subject for major changes, which are caused by a set of various aspects, including the technological progress, use of natural resources, urbanization, and others. It could also be observed that these changes are predominantly adverse. Numerous studies are dedicated to the effects of environmental factors on public health. The researchers determine and explain the interconnections between the way nature is changed by people’s actions and how people are affected by these changes. These investigations serve as a basis for the discipline of environmental health. This study aims to discuss the principal aspects of the health effects of environmental change, to observe the impact of various environmental factors, and also to provide a personal perspective on how the situation could be improved.
It is apparent from numerous studies that the subject of environmental health is presented and elaborated in contemporary science. However, the problem of the adverse impact of environmental change on public health is far from being wholly soluted. Therefore, this section will dwell upon the principal aspects of the issue to put further investigations and reasonings into the proper context.
First of all, it is possible to broadly define the term “environmental health” as a subdivision of public health, which is primarily preoccupied with the influence of natural and artificial environments on the health of individuals and society as a whole. It is more than obvious that people constantly interact with the environment, which is defined by the World Health Organization as “physical, chemical, and biological factors external to a person” (“Environmental health,” 2018, para. 2). Thus, environmental health is defined by Healthy People 2020 as the prevention of adverse outcomes (including diseases, injuries, long-term negative consequences), which can occur in the process of interaction between a human being and environment (“Environmental health,” 2018). With that being said, the following six principal areas of concern were defined by Healthy People 2020 to protect the environmental health: “outdoor air quality”, “surface and groundwater quality”, “toxic substances and hazardous wastes”, “homes and communities”, “infrastructure and surveillance’, “global environmental health” (“Environmental health,” 2018, para. 3).
It is essential to briefly overview each of the mentioned areas to gather a broader understanding of environmental health as a whole. First of all, the quality of air has a significant impact on public health since the polluted air is the cause of cancer, premature death, and long-term adverse influence on human respiratory and cardiovascular systems (“Environmental health,” 2018). One of the primary causal factors of air pollution is carbon emissions, caused by the rapidly increasing number of cars (Nieuwenhuijsen, 2016). Secondly, environmental health is concerned with the quality of drinking and recreational waters because contagious infections, which can easily infiltrate into the water, are causing both mild and severe diseases. Thirdly, it is of high importance to observe the problem of hazardous wastes and even though the research of particular health outcomes of exposure to toxic substances is still ongoing, it is apparent that these chemicals are causing serious problems for public health (“Environmental health,” 2018; Carlin et al., 2016).
Further, the problem of domestic and community-scale environmental health should be discussed. It is evident that people, especially the ones who reside in urban areas, spend most of their time at home, work, or educational institutions. Given that the urban environment is a subject to numerous adverse processes, such as indoor air pollution, electrical and fire hazards, noise and temperature risks, inadequate sanitation and heating, maintaining the healthy environment is an essential aspect of public health (“Environmental health,” 2018; Nieuwenhuijsen, 2016). In addition to the previous issue, it is possible to determine the environmental role of infrastructure and surveillance services since they can significantly improve the quality of life (“Environmental health,” 2018). Finally, global environmental health problems should be mentioned. They include but are not limited to the following: climate change due to vast carbon emissions, disasters of both natural and human origins, the potential impact of developing nanotechnologies, adverse influence of developing industries, and several others (Biesbroek et al., 2014; “Environmental health,” 2018; Currie, Davis, Greenstone, & Walker, 2015). The following section will discuss some of the aforementioned issues in more detail.
Environmental Factors that Impact Health
First of all, it is important to dwell on the importance of improving the living conditions in urban areas since they are considered to be significantly hazardous to public health. For example, Nieuwenhuijsen (2016) observes that city exposure to air pollution substantially contributes to such consequences as lung cancer, cardiovascular diseases, respiratory infections, and decreased lung function among children, and mortality, resulting in approximately 3-4 million premature deaths (p. 164). Other aspects which are presented are ambient noise, causing morbidity, disturbance of sleep patterns, high blood pressure, cognitive and reproductive effects; and ambient temperature, which is associated with “cardiorespiratory morbidity,” hospital admissions, and mortality as well (Nieuwenhuijsen, 2016, p. 164).
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Another research, conducted by Currie et al. (2015), investigates the negative influence of industrial plants’ toxic emissions. The researchers implemented a conceptual framework to study the sample of approximately 1600 plants and the effects of their opening and closing. The authors conclude that the toxic emissions continue to adversely impact the environment and public health even after they are closed, causing long-term consequences such as low birth weight, which increases “by roughly 3 percent within one mile of a toxic operating plant” (Currie et al., 2015, p. 700). Another topic, related to the environmental impact of hazardous chemicals, is studied by Carlin et al. (2016). The authors argue that there is a significant necessity in researching and preventing harmful effects of arsenic exposure, which include exposure from water sources, dietary vulnerabilities, soil, and dust exposures (Carlin et al., 2016).
Also, it is essential to mention the environmental impact of greenhouse gas emissions. In the study by Biesbroek et al. (2014), the authors investigate a relatively unexposed connection between the greenhouse effect and people’s dietary patterns. The researchers argue that the productions of animal-delivered food have a considerable negative impact on the environment. It is concluded that the substitution of meat products with vegetables, fruits, and certain cereals reduces greenhouse emissions by 4 to 11 percent (Biesbroek et al., 2014, p. 33).
My Role in Improving/Eliminating Environmental Barriers to Health
Further, it is of high importance to discuss possible actions that could be implemented personally to decrease the negative effects of environmental changes on public health. It could be hardly doubted that a person in the position of health practitioner cannot significantly impact the processes related to the global environment and large-scale problems in general. Therefore, it is evident that I, as an advanced practice nurse, should focus on delivering care directly to people since it is the most efficient way in which I can contribute to the improvement of the current situation.
First of all, I spread the awareness about the environmental issues among my patients. The vast amount of people are not paying enough attention to the potential hazards of the circumstances in which they are living. Thus, it would be helpful to discuss possible implications of exposure to adverse conditions, such as air pollution, with people who work at hazardous workplaces. Also, it is important to maintain knowledge about the importance of healthy dietary and sleep patterns. The majority of individuals, due to the stress, which is induced by their working and domestic responsibilities, are not paying enough attention to obtaining enough sleeping hours and proper nutrition (Sallis, Owen, & Fisher, 2015). However, my duties as a nurse practitioner are not limited to the mentioned aspects. It is also important for me to be a responsible member of society. For example, I can reduce my impact on the environment by minimizing the use of vehicles, consuming less electricity, and reducing waste. By the implementation of these steps, it is possible to personally influence the positive environmental change and to be less exposed to the adverse impact of the hazardous factors.
In conclusion, it should be stated that the problem of environmental change and related public health issues are present in contemporary society. This paper identified the principal factors, which contribute to the development of hazardous effects and adverse changes in the environment. Also, the examples of personal contribution to the improvement of the situation were presented. Overall, it is possible to make a significant step in a positive direction if the proper effort is put into action.
Biesbroek, S., Bueno-de-Mesquita, H. B., Peeters, P. H., Verschuren, W. M., van der Schouw, Y. T., Kramer, G. F.,… Temme, E. H. (2014). Reducing our environmental footprint and improving our health: Greenhouse gas emission and land use of usual diet and mortality in EPIC-NL: A prospective cohort study. Environmental Health, 13(1), 27-36.
Carlin, D. J., Naujokas, M. F., Bradham, K. D., Cowden, J., Heacock, M., Henry, H. F.,… Waalkes, M. P. (2016). Arsenic and environmental health: State of the science and future research opportunities. Environmental Health Perspectives, 124(7), 890.
Currie, J., Davis, L., Greenstone, M., & Walker, R. (2015). Environmental health risks and housing values: Evidence from 1,600 toxic plant openings and closings. American Economic Review, 105(2), 678-709.
Environmental health. (2018). Web.
Nieuwenhuijsen, M. J. (2016). Urban and transport planning, environmental exposures and health-new concepts, methods and tools to improve health in cities. Environmental Health, 15(1), 161-171.
Sallis, J. F., Owen, N., & Fisher, E. (2015). Ecological models of health behavior. In K. Glanz, B. K. Rimer, & K. Viswanath (Eds.), Health behavior and health education: Theory, research, and practice (4th ed.) (pp. 465-485). San-Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.