How the Environment Affects Health and Why This Is an Important Global Health Policy Concern

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Introduction

For many years there have been many discussions regarding the relationship between health and the environment. There are many risky environmental factors that impact on health. Researchers have found out that there are risks indicators in the environment though such indicators are not themselves the risks that are detrimental to human health (Rothman, 2000). A research conducted by the World Health Organization in 1992 found out that, “the influences of the environment on health operate in a normal range and not only in the case of extreme environmental factors” (Dora & Phillips, 2000; 43). It was also established that the environment’s detrimental factors affects people at all ages, i.e. infancy, middle-childhood and also during adult life. The WHO research also identified that there are varying variations in the way individuals respond to the influences of the environment. Some people tend to succumb, others resilient while there are other people who look adapted to the impacts of the environment.

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An example of such environmental impacts that have negative impacts to health is climate change. This is the sudden rise in the global temperatures and is known to have many impacts including the human health. Climate change results from pollution which leads to the depletion of the ozone layer and therefore leading to the direct heat from the sun. This paper will discuss how climate change affects the human health and finally make recommendations for reversing such impacts.

Discussion

Climate change has wide range of impacts that affect human health negatively. The trend of climate change is increasing at an alarming late making the need for the world to stop this trend and protect the future generations which are the most venerable people (Lorig, et al, 1996). The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change according to the report by Parry, M., Canziani, F., Palutikof, J., Vander, L. and Hanson, C. (2007), has found out human beings are the major catalyst of climate change which is posing life threats to many people. Climate change to the extreme causes injuries and even death, this happen through natural processes that are as a result of climate change for instance, drought, floods and heat waves. Research conducted by the World Health Organization in 1992 also indicated that many deadly diseases are sensitive to varying precipitation and also changing temperatures. Such diseases are the diseases that are caused by vectors such as dengue and malaria, other killers that result from climate change are diarrhea and malnutrition. These diseases and many other will continue to kill unless the effects of climate change are reversed.

The deadly impacts of climate change on human health are not uniformly distributed around the globe. People in the developing countries, Small Island States, people living in ASALS and highly mountainous nations and those people living in coastal areas that are densely populated (Wineman, 2004). The global temperatures are expected to continue rising due the effects of human activities that result to the emission of pollutants to the atmosphere. In addition, to air pollution human activities pollute the water through discharge of waste into the water bodies, this in turn lead to water borne diseases when such water is used for consumption, either directly or indirectly.

The impacts of the environment are also felt by the brain. Fraser Mustard of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (2008) established that environment effects affect the psychological function o human beings. According to the research conducted by Fraser Mustard in 2008, the influences of the environment considerably affect the expression of genes through the influences they have on methylation (Rutter, 2004). The study also found out that these environmental influences have effects on the brain development program (Wilkin & Barker, 2003). The effect on brain development eventually leads to differences in interpersonal relations because the cognitive functions of the brain are affected and there people mental capacity in different environment would vary widely (Chang & Johnson, 2008).

Recommendations

Most of these health impacts are avoidable through several health measures and programs. There is need to promote and strengthen existing health systems and choices that are targeted to reduce the impacts of climate change. The most important measures are the ones that aim at reducing the emission of greenhouse gases, this achievable by reducing air pollution. The World Health Organization has such programs that target health protection from the impacts of climate change which is reinforced through a World Health Assembly resolution. WHO is able to support these programs through the many headquarter offices, the World Health Organization provides capacity building and implement projects that support health systems in order to respond to the impacts of climate change. In addition, the World Health Organization health considerations are taken into account by decisions that are made by other stakeholders in the environment like transport and energy.

Stakeholder’s involvement in reversing the impacts of climate change is of major importance. There is need for environmental education to all people so as to impart knowledge on how everyone can participate in reducing climate change. The developed countries are the worst hit by these effects due to lack of knowledge and the appropriate technologies to reduce the emission of climate change. The environment education should also stress on the interrelatedness of the environment and health, this can help everyone understand why there is need to ensure that the environment is protected for the sake of the future generations which are more venerable to these effects.

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Summary

This paper has discussed the relationship that exists between the environment and health. There is a close relationship between the two that determine how one of these two aspects affects the other. It has been established that an impact on the environment has a corresponding impact on health. There are several environmental factors that affect the environment negatively and eventually affect the human health. The paper has considered climate change as one of the environmental factors that pose negative effects to human health. Climate change is mainly caused by human activities and is associated with high temperatures that lead to drought and eventually malnutrition, this is so common in the arid and semi—arid lands. Climate change has also been established to provide and enduring environment for major killer diseases malaria and diarrhea. Another considerable effect of climate change on health is the way the human cognitive roles are affected. As a result of this, people in different environmental settings have differing interpersonal relations (Wilkin & Barker, 2003).

Most of these environmental effects that are a threat to health can be reversed. The WHO is a one of the institutions that is ensuring this by implementing projects that strengthen health. The WHO also facilitates that that its country, regional and international headquarters work jointly with other organs to ensure that health safety is achieved.

References

Chang, E. & Johnson, A. (2008). Chronic illness and disabilities. Sydney: Churchill Livingstone publication.

Dora, C. and Phillips, M. (2000). Transport, environment and health. Copenhagen: WHO, Regional Office for Europe Publication.

Lorig, K., Stewart, A., Ritter, P. and González, V. (1996). Outcome measures for health education and other health care interventions. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

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Mustard, F. (2008). Free market capitalism, social accountability and equity in early human (child) development. Pediatric Child Health journal, 13(10): 839–842.

Parry, M., Canziani, F., Palutikof, J., Vander, L. and Hanson, C. Contribution of working group II to the fourth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change, 2007. United Kingdom and New York: Cambridge University Press.

Rothman, A. (2000). Toward a theory-based analysis of behavioural maintenance. Health Psychology, 19(1): 64-69.

Rutter, M. (2004). Environmentally mediated risks for psychopathology: research strategies and findings. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 3(11): 123-8.

Wilkin, P. and Barker, P. (2003). Psychiatric and mental health nursing: The craft of caring. London: Arnold publication.

Wineman, S. (2004). The politics of human services: Radical alternatives to the welfare state. Boston: South End Press.

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