The relationship between the environment and humans is a symbiotic one – people impact their surroundings, and they influence people. It is not an exaggeration to say that environmental conditions affect human health every single day. However, it is humanity that is responsible for the deterioration of the environment and the health state of people. Healthcare providers can contribute to the elimination of the negative effects of environmental conditions on human health. The purpose of this essay is to consider the concept of environmental health and how healthcare providers can positively contribute to this public health field.
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Concept of Environmental Health
Humanity is an intrinsic part of the environment, and anything that is released into the air, water, or soil may harm organisms and cause lung, stomach, blood, brain, and nervous system disorders. Environmental health aims to identify the relationships between people and their surroundings. It is the public health field that monitors physical, biological, and chemical indicators that have an impact on people (Nriagu, 2019). The field is aimed at studying both built and natural environments that can adversely affect human well-being in order to improve people’s quality of life.
Environmental Factors that Impact Health
The 20th century was a time of technological development for humanity. People moved from relying on muscle power and physical mode of thinking to a technology-based society. It has allowed people to be more advanced in transportation, communication, weaponry, agricultural production, and others. The downside of the process was that people had introduced chemicals into the environment to which the human body did not have immunity.
According to Friis (2018), “globally, nearly 25 percent of all deaths and the total disease burden can be attributed to environmental factors” (p. 34). The production systems that people have developed use fuels and chemicals that are then discharged. People cannot metabolize the toxic substances that they are exposed to; therefore, there are numerous chronic illnesses and environmental problems. Moreover, natural factors, such as radiation, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, fires, droughts, as well as infectious diseases, often cannot be prevented by a human. However, people can prepare for them with monitoring, planning, and proper treatment.
My Role in Eliminating Environmental Barriers to Health
Medical staff may contribute to improving environmental barriers to health by numerous methods, both quantitative and qualitative. For example, it can be done by investigating relationships between environmental factors, such as hazardous chemicals and radiation, and health to protect people from them. The obtained information can be used to develop guidance that is evidence-based in order to minimize or reduce these harmful exposures. To fulfill this mission, health practitioners should cooperate with local and state partners by providing technical expertise.
For example, as a healthcare worker, I can use biomonitoring to measure environmental chemicals in human specimens, like blood, serum, or urine. According to Dennis et al. (2017), “biomonitoring serves as a key tool to define exposure–disease risks given the biological significance of internal exposure measurements” (p. 502). By using biomonitoring measurements, I can measure what chemical gets into the body and where it comes from.
The level that gets into the body is a health-relevant one, so it is necessary to measure it to protect the public’s health. Chemicals, like lead, cadmium, arsenic, mercury, pesticides, and persistent organic pollutants, that people have exposed to in the environment can be identified. The results can be used to advise a required course of treatment for a patient having harmful substances in the body.
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There are growing concerns about human impact on nature, oceans, forests, and the planet overall, as well as human health. Environmental problems are as relevant as ever; therefore, there is a need to minimize any significant adverse impact on human health. Health workers can work in disaster relief by applying numerous qualitative and quantitative methods, for example, biomonitoring. Through the understanding of how the relationship between humans and the environment works, medical practitioners can improve human health and, as a result, their quality of life.
Dennis, K. K., Marder, E., Balshaw, D. M., Cui, Y., Lynes, M. A., Patti, G. J.,… Barr, D. B. (2017). Biomonitoring in the era of the exposome. Environmental Health Perspectives, 125(4), 502-510.
Friis, R. H. (2018). Essentials of environmental health. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.
Nriagu, J. O. (Ed.). (2019). Encyclopedia of environmental health. (Vol. 1). Amsterdam: Elsevier.