The Critical Link Between Environment and Global Health

The saying “we are what we eat” may need an update: “we are where we live.” Our environment—the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the landscapes that surround us—plays a more pivotal role in our health than we often realize. This connection between the environment and our well-being, both individually and globally, is the focus of environmental health, a field dedicated to understanding how our surroundings shape our health outcomes.

Key Takeaways:

  • Environmental factors like air and water pollution, chemical exposure, and climate change have a significant impact on global health.
  • Vulnerable populations are disproportionately affected by environmental hazards.
  • Environmental injustice leads to health disparities, where marginalized communities face higher risks.
  • Climate change is a growing threat to global health, impacting everything from extreme weather events to infectious disease patterns.
  • Understanding the relationship between environment and health is crucial for developing effective solutions and promoting sustainable practices.

Our Interconnected World: The Environment-Health Nexus

To truly grasp the impact of the environment on global health, we must first understand the breadth of what “environment” encompasses. It includes not only the natural world—air, water, soil, and ecosystems—but also the built environment—our homes, workplaces, and communities—as well as social and economic factors that shape our lives.

Global health, on the other hand, extends beyond individual well-being. It encompasses the health of entire populations, considering factors such as disease patterns, life expectancy, access to healthcare, and the overall well-being of communities.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines environmental health as “all the physical, chemical, and biological factors external to a person, and all the related factors impacting behaviors.” This broad definition highlights the intricate ways in which our surroundings can influence our health, from the air we breathe to the social structures that shape our lives.

The Critical Link Between Environment and Global Health

Environmental Hazards: The Unseen Threats to Our Health

Our environment can be a source of both sustenance and harm. While nature provides us with essential resources for survival, it can also expose us to a range of hazards that can compromise our health. Let’s delve into some of the most pressing environmental threats and their impact on global health:

Air Pollution: A Silent Killer

Air pollution, often invisible to the naked eye, poses a significant threat to global health.

  • Sources: Industrial emissions, vehicle exhaust, wildfires, agricultural practices, and even dust storms contribute to air pollution.
  • Health Effects: The health consequences of air pollution are far-reaching, including respiratory diseases like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cardiovascular disease, cancer, neurological disorders, and adverse pregnancy outcomes.
  • Specific Examples: The air quality crisis in Delhi, India, is a stark example of the devastating impact of air pollution. In 2020, the city’s air quality was classified as “severe” for over 200 days, leading to a surge in respiratory illnesses and premature deaths.

Water Contamination: A Hidden Danger

Access to clean water is a fundamental human right, yet water contamination remains a global health crisis.

  • Sources: Industrial waste, untreated sewage, agricultural runoff, and inadequate sanitation practices are major contributors to water contamination.
  • Health Effects: Contaminated water can transmit a variety of diseases, including cholera, typhoid fever, dysentery, and hepatitis A. Long-term exposure to contaminated water can also lead to chronic diseases such as cancer, kidney disease, and liver disease.
  • Specific Examples: The Flint water crisis in the United States highlighted the devastating consequences of lead contamination in drinking water, particularly for children’s developing brains.

Chemical Exposures: The Toxic Burden

We are exposed to a vast array of chemicals in our daily lives, from pesticides in our food to flame retardants in our furniture. While many chemicals are harmless, some can pose serious health risks.

  • Sources: Pesticides, heavy metals like lead and mercury, industrial chemicals, and plastics are common sources of chemical exposure.
  • Health Effects: The health effects of chemical exposure vary depending on the specific chemical and the level of exposure. However, some common consequences include cancer, reproductive and developmental problems, neurological damage, and endocrine disruption.
  • Specific Examples: The widespread use of endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) in consumer products has raised concerns about their potential impact on human health, particularly on reproductive and developmental health.

Related Questions and Answers:

  1. How does air pollution affect children’s health? Children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of air pollution due to their developing lungs and immune systems. Exposure to air pollution can lead to respiratory problems, asthma, impaired lung function, and even developmental delays.
  2. What are the long-term health effects of exposure to contaminated water? Long-term exposure to contaminated water can increase the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer, kidney disease, liver disease, and neurological disorders. It can also lead to developmental problems in children, including cognitive impairment and behavioral issues.
  3. How can I reduce my exposure to harmful chemicals? You can reduce your exposure to harmful chemicals by choosing organic produce, using natural cleaning products, avoiding products with fragrances, and reading labels carefully. You can also support policies that promote stricter regulation of chemicals and invest in environmentally friendly products.

The Toll of Environmental Hazards on Global Health

Environmental HazardEstimated Annual Deaths Worldwide
Air Pollution7 million
Water Contamination1.24 million
Chemical Exposures1.6 million
The Toll of Environmental Hazards on Global Health

Source: World Health Organization (WHO)

Further Exploration:

  • The Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health: This commission provides comprehensive research and recommendations on the global burden of disease caused by pollution.
  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): The EPA offers resources and information on environmental health risks and protective measures. [invalid URL removed]

Understanding the impact of these environmental hazards on global health is the first step towards finding solutions. In the next part of this article, we will explore the role of climate change in exacerbating these risks and delve into strategies for mitigating the environmental burden on our health.

The Toll of Environmental Hazards on Global Health

Climate Change and Environmental Injustice: Exacerbating Global Health Risks

While the environmental hazards discussed previously pose significant challenges to global health, climate change acts as a threat multiplier, intensifying these risks and introducing new ones. Simultaneously, the issue of environmental injustice further complicates the landscape, creating disproportionate burdens for marginalized communities.

Climate Change: A Looming Crisis for Global Health

The effects of climate change are already being felt worldwide, and their impact on human health is undeniable. Rising global temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, and more frequent and intense extreme weather events are all contributing to a growing health crisis.

Extreme Weather Events: A Direct Threat to Human Lives

Climate change is fueling a surge in extreme weather events, such as heatwaves, floods, droughts, and wildfires. These events have devastating and immediate impacts on human health:

  • Heatwaves: Prolonged periods of extreme heat can lead to heatstroke, dehydration, cardiovascular stress, and respiratory problems. Vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, children, and those with pre-existing conditions, are particularly at risk. Recent studies have linked heatwaves to increased hospitalizations and mortality rates, particularly in urban areas.
  • Floods: Floods can cause injuries, drownings, and displacement. They can also contaminate water sources, leading to outbreaks of waterborne diseases and create breeding grounds for disease-carrying insects. The devastating floods in Pakistan in 2022 affected over 33 million people and caused widespread damage to infrastructure and livelihoods.
  • Droughts: Prolonged droughts can lead to crop failures, food shortages, malnutrition, and famine. They can also exacerbate water scarcity, leading to dehydration and increased vulnerability to infectious diseases. The ongoing drought in the Horn of Africa is a prime example of how climate change can trigger a humanitarian crisis with devastating health consequences.
  • Wildfires: Wildfires release harmful air pollutants, including particulate matter and carbon monoxide, which can cause respiratory problems, cardiovascular disease, and other health issues. The 2023 Canadian wildfires, which blanketed much of North America in smoke, highlight the far-reaching health impacts of these events.

Changing Disease Patterns: A Shifting Landscape

Climate change is altering the distribution and transmission patterns of infectious diseases. As temperatures rise and rainfall patterns change, disease vectors such as mosquitoes, ticks, and rodents can expand their ranges, bringing diseases like malaria, dengue fever, Zika virus, and Lyme disease to new areas.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that climate change could cause an additional 250,000 deaths per year between 2030 and 2050 due to malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea, and heat stress alone.

Environmental Injustice: Unequal Impacts on Health

Environmental injustice refers to the disproportionate burden of environmental risks and hazards faced by marginalized communities, often those with lower incomes or belonging to racial or ethnic minority groups. This injustice manifests in various ways, from the location of polluting industries to limited access to clean water and green spaces.

The consequences of environmental injustice are stark. Communities facing environmental injustice experience higher rates of asthma, cancer, lead poisoning, and other health problems linked to environmental exposures. They also face greater vulnerability to the health impacts of climate change, as they often lack the resources to adapt and recover from extreme weather events.

Addressing the Challenges: A Call for Action

Addressing the interconnected challenges of climate change and environmental injustice requires a comprehensive and collaborative approach.

  • Mitigation: Reducing greenhouse gas emissions to slow down climate change and prevent further warming is crucial. This involves transitioning to renewable energy sources, improving energy efficiency, and adopting sustainable agricultural practices.
  • Adaptation: Investing in infrastructure and systems to protect communities from the impacts of climate change, such as early warning systems for extreme weather events, resilient water and sanitation systems, and climate-smart agriculture.
  • Addressing Environmental Injustice: Prioritizing the needs of marginalized communities in environmental decision-making and ensuring equitable access to clean air, water, and healthy environments.

The health of our planet and the health of its people are inextricably linked. By addressing climate change and environmental injustice, we can protect the health of current and future generations and create a more sustainable and equitable world for all.

Solutions and the Path Forward: Building a Healthier Future

The challenges posed by the environment to global health are complex and multifaceted, but they are not insurmountable. By recognizing the interconnectedness of human health and the environment, we can develop and implement strategies that promote a healthier future for all.

1. Sustainable Development: A Holistic Approach

Sustainable development is a holistic approach that seeks to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It encompasses economic, social, and environmental dimensions, recognizing that these aspects are intrinsically linked. In the context of environmental health, sustainable development means creating environments that support human health and well-being while preserving the natural resources that sustain life. This can be achieved through:

  • Green Urban Planning: Designing cities with ample green spaces, efficient public transportation, and access to healthy food options can promote physical activity, reduce air pollution, and improve overall well-being. For example, the city of Copenhagen has implemented a comprehensive green urban planning strategy that prioritizes cycling, pedestrian-friendly streets, and green roofs.
  • Sustainable Agriculture: Promoting agricultural practices that minimize environmental impact, conserve biodiversity, and ensure food security is crucial for both human and planetary health. This can involve using organic farming methods, reducing pesticide use, and implementing water-efficient irrigation techniques. The Rodale Institute, a leading research organization, has demonstrated the benefits of organic agriculture for soil health, water quality, and human health.
  • Renewable Energy Transition: Shifting from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and hydropower can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the health impacts of climate change. The Inflation Reduction Act in the United States is a significant step in this direction, providing substantial investments in clean energy infrastructure and incentives for renewable energy adoption.

2. Environmental Policy and Regulation: Safeguarding Public Health

Strong environmental policies and regulations are essential for protecting public health from environmental hazards. Governments, international organizations, and civil society all have a role to play in advocating for and implementing policies that safeguard the environment and human health.

  • National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA): This landmark environmental law in the United States requires federal agencies to assess the environmental impacts of their proposed actions and consider alternatives that minimize harm. NEPA has been instrumental in protecting air and water quality, preserving endangered species, and promoting public participation in environmental decision-making.
  • Clean Air Act (CAA): The CAA is a federal law that regulates air emissions from stationary and mobile sources. It has been successful in reducing air pollution and improving air quality in the United States, leading to significant public health benefits.
  • Clean Water Act (CWA): The CWA is a federal law that regulates the discharge of pollutants into the waters of the United States and sets water quality standards for surface waters. It has played a critical role in improving water quality and protecting aquatic ecosystems.
  • International Environmental Agreements: International agreements, such as the Paris Agreement on climate change, provide a framework for global cooperation on environmental protection and health promotion. These agreements set ambitious goals and targets for reducing emissions, adapting to climate change, and promoting sustainable development.

3. The Role of Healthcare Professionals: Advocating for a Healthy Environment

Healthcare professionals have a unique opportunity and responsibility to advocate for environmental health. They can leverage their expertise, influence, and trust to educate patients and the public, influence policy, and promote healthy environments.

  • Environmental Health Education: Integrating environmental health into medical and public health curricula can equip future healthcare providers with the knowledge and skills to address environmental health challenges. This includes understanding the health effects of environmental exposures, identifying vulnerable populations, and promoting preventive measures.
  • Advocacy and Policy Engagement: Healthcare professionals can advocate for policies that protect the environment and public health, such as stricter air and water quality standards, regulations on toxic chemicals, and investments in clean energy. They can also educate policymakers about the health impacts of environmental hazards and the importance of preventive measures.
  • Community Outreach: Healthcare professionals can engage with their communities to raise awareness about environmental health issues, promote healthy behaviors, and advocate for environmental justice. This can involve participating in community health fairs, giving presentations to local groups, and collaborating with community organizations.

4. Community Empowerment: Building Resilient and Healthy Communities

Empowering communities to take ownership of their environmental health is crucial for achieving lasting change. Community-based approaches can be particularly effective in addressing environmental injustices and promoting sustainable practices at the local level.

  • Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR): This approach involves partnering with community members to identify environmental health concerns, design research studies, and implement interventions. CBPR empowers communities to participate in the research process and ensures that research findings are relevant and useful to the community.
  • Community Health Workers (CHWs): CHWs are trusted members of the community who can play a vital role in educating residents about environmental health risks, promoting healthy behaviors, and connecting people to resources. CHWs can also advocate for policy changes and help build community resilience to environmental hazards.
  • Community-Based Organizations (CBOs): CBOs can play a critical role in mobilizing communities, advocating for environmental justice, and implementing sustainable practices. They can also provide support and resources to individuals and families affected by environmental health problems.

The journey towards a healthier planet requires the collective action of individuals, communities, healthcare professionals, policymakers, and international organizations. By working together, we can create a world where everyone has the opportunity to live a healthy and fulfilling life in a thriving environment.

Conclusion: Nurturing a Healthy Planet, Nurturing Ourselves

The intricate dance between our environment and global health is undeniable. We are intrinsically connected to the world around us, and its health is our health. From the air we breathe to the water we drink, our environment shapes our well-being in profound ways.

The challenges we face, from air pollution to climate change, are significant. However, they are not insurmountable. By acknowledging the intricate relationship between environment and health, we empower ourselves to make informed decisions, advocate for change, and invest in a healthier future for all.

The path forward involves a multi-faceted approach:

  • Sustainable Development: Embracing practices that promote economic growth, social well-being, and environmental protection is essential for long-term health and prosperity.
  • Policy and Regulation: Strong environmental policies and regulations are crucial for safeguarding public health and ensuring a clean, healthy environment for all.
  • Healthcare Professionals: Their role as educators, advocates, and researchers is pivotal in raising awareness, influencing policy, and finding innovative solutions to environmental health challenges.
  • Community Empowerment: Engaging and empowering communities to take ownership of their environmental health fosters resilience and drives sustainable change at the grassroots level.

Let us remember that our health is inextricably linked to the health of our planet. By prioritizing environmental health, we invest in our own well-being and create a legacy of health for future generations. It’s a shared responsibility that calls for collective action.

As we navigate the complexities of the environment-health nexus, let us be guided by the understanding that our actions today will shape the health and well-being of generations to come. Together, we can build a world where people and planet thrive in harmony.

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How Our Environment Shapes Global Health

The health of our planet and the health of its people are inextricably linked. From the air we breathe to the water we drink, our environment profoundly influences our well-being. This connection is at the heart of environmental health, a field that examines the complex interplay between environmental factors and human health on a global scale. Understanding these environmental determinants of health is paramount for preventing disease, promoting well-being, and achieving a sustainable future.

Key Takeaways:

  • Environmental factors like air and water pollution, chemical exposures, and climate change significantly impact global health.
  • Vulnerable populations, including children, the elderly, and those with pre-existing conditions, are disproportionately affected by environmental hazards.
  • Environmental injustice leads to health disparities, with marginalized communities often bearing a greater burden of environmental risks.
  • Addressing environmental health risks requires a multi-faceted approach, including policy changes, technological innovation, and community engagement.
  • Understanding the environment-health connection is crucial for disease prevention, intervention, and sustainable development.

The Air We Breathe: A Silent Threat to Global Health

The air we breathe, seemingly invisible and innocuous, can harbor a multitude of pollutants that pose serious threats to human health.

Sources of Air Pollution

Air pollution stems from a variety of sources, both natural and human-made:

  • Industrial Emissions: Factories, power plants, and other industrial processes release a cocktail of pollutants, including sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter (PM2.5). These pollutants can irritate the lungs, trigger asthma attacks, and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • Vehicle Exhaust: Cars, trucks, and other vehicles emit nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These pollutants contribute to smog formation, respiratory problems, and cardiovascular disease.
  • Wildfires: While a natural phenomenon, wildfires are exacerbated by climate change and can release massive amounts of smoke and particulate matter into the air. These pollutants can travel long distances, impacting air quality and health in regions far from the fire’s origin.

Health Effects of Air Pollution

The health consequences of air pollution are far-reaching and often devastating:

  • Respiratory Diseases: Air pollution is a major risk factor for respiratory diseases such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and lung cancer.
  • Cardiovascular Diseases: Fine particulate matter (PM2.5) can enter the bloodstream and contribute to the development of heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular conditions.
  • Neurological Disorders: Emerging research suggests that air pollution may even be linked to neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
  • Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes: Pregnant women exposed to air pollution have a higher risk of preterm birth, low birth weight, and other complications.

Specific Examples of Air Pollution’s Impact

  • The 2023 Canadian wildfires serve as a stark reminder of the far-reaching effects of air pollution. The smoke from these fires blanketed much of North America, causing respiratory problems, eye irritation, and other health issues.
  • In cities like Delhi, India, air pollution has reached crisis levels, with PM2.5 concentrations exceeding safe limits by a factor of 10 or more. This has led to a surge in respiratory illnesses and premature deaths.
How Our Environment Shapes Global Health

The Water We Drink: A Source of Life and Disease

Water is essential for life, but contaminated water can be a source of deadly diseases.

Sources of Water Contamination

Water contamination can occur through various pathways:

  • Industrial Waste: Factories and industrial facilities often discharge untreated or inadequately treated wastewater into rivers, lakes, and oceans. This can introduce a wide range of pollutants, including heavy metals, chemicals, and pathogens.
  • Sewage: Untreated or partially treated sewage can contaminate water sources with harmful bacteria, viruses, and parasites. This can lead to outbreaks of waterborne diseases such as cholera, typhoid fever, and hepatitis A.
  • Agricultural Runoff: Fertilizers and pesticides used in agriculture can run off into waterways, contaminating them with nitrates, phosphates, and other chemicals. This can cause algal blooms, deplete oxygen levels in the water, and harm aquatic life.

Health Effects of Water Contamination

The health consequences of water contamination are significant and can affect people of all ages:

  • Waterborne Diseases: Contaminated water can transmit a wide range of diseases, including diarrhea, cholera, dysentery, and typhoid fever. These diseases can cause dehydration, malnutrition, and even death, especially in children and vulnerable populations.
  • Chronic Diseases: Long-term exposure to contaminated water can increase the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer, kidney disease, and liver disease.
  • Developmental Problems: Children exposed to contaminated water may experience developmental delays, cognitive impairment, and other health problems.

Specific Examples of Water Contamination’s Impact

  • The Flint water crisis in Michigan, USA, highlighted the devastating consequences of water contamination. The city’s water supply was contaminated with lead, a neurotoxin that can cause irreversible damage to children’s brains.
  • In many developing countries, access to clean water remains a major challenge. Millions of people lack access to safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, and hygiene education, making them vulnerable to waterborne diseases.

Chemical Exposures: Hidden Dangers in Our Everyday Lives

Chemicals are ubiquitous in our modern world, from the food we eat to the products we use. While many chemicals are safe, some can pose significant risks to human health.

Sources of Chemical Exposure

Chemical exposure can occur through various routes:

  • Pesticides: Pesticides are widely used in agriculture to protect crops from pests and diseases. However, they can also contaminate food and water, and exposure to certain pesticides has been linked to cancer, reproductive problems, and neurological disorders.
  • Heavy Metals: Heavy metals such as lead, mercury, and arsenic can be found in industrial waste, contaminated soil, and some consumer products. These metals can accumulate in the body over time and cause a range of health problems, including neurological damage, kidney disease, and cancer.
  • Industrial Chemicals: Industrial processes often release a variety of chemicals into the environment, including solvents, plastics, and flame retardants. Some of these chemicals have been linked to cancer, reproductive problems, and endocrine disruption.

Health Effects of Chemical Exposure

The health effects of chemical exposure can vary depending on the specific chemical, the dose, and the duration of exposure. However, some common health effects include:

  • Cancer: Many chemicals, including pesticides, heavy metals, and industrial chemicals, are known or suspected carcinogens.
  • Reproductive Problems: Exposure to certain chemicals can disrupt the endocrine system, leading to reproductive problems such as infertility, miscarriage, and birth defects.
  • Developmental Disorders: Children exposed to certain chemicals during pregnancy or early childhood may experience developmental delays, learning disabilities, and other health problems.
  • Neurological Damage: Some chemicals, such as lead and mercury, can damage the nervous system, leading to cognitive impairment, memory loss, and other neurological disorders.

Specific Examples of Chemical Exposure’s Impact

  • Lead poisoning remains a significant public health problem, particularly in children. Exposure to lead can occur through contaminated water, paint, and soil. Lead poisoning can cause irreversible damage to children’s brains, leading to learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and other health issues.
  • The use of endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) in consumer products has raised concerns about their potential effects on human health. EDCs can mimic or block hormones, interfering with the body’s normal endocrine function. This can lead to reproductive problems, developmental disorders, and other health issues.

Related Questions and Answers

  1. What are the main sources of air pollution? The main sources of air pollution include industrial emissions, vehicle exhaust, and wildfires. Other sources include agricultural activities, dust storms, and volcanic eruptions.
  2. How does air pollution affect children’s health? Air pollution can have a particularly detrimental impact on children’s health. Children’s lungs are still developing, making them more vulnerable to the harmful effects of air pollutants. Exposure to air pollution can lead to respiratory problems, asthma, and other health issues in children.
  3. What are the most common waterborne diseases? Some of the most common waterborne diseases include diarrhea, cholera, dysentery, typhoid fever, and hepatitis A. These diseases are often caused by bacteria, viruses, and parasites that contaminate water sources.
  4. How can I protect myself from chemical exposure? You can reduce your exposure to harmful chemicals by choosing organic food, using natural cleaning products, avoiding products with fragrances, and reading labels carefully. You can also support policies that promote stricter regulation of chemicals.

Climate Change: A Looming Shadow Over Global Health

Climate change is no longer a distant threat; it is a present reality with profound implications for global health. As the planet warms, extreme weather events become more frequent and intense, infectious diseases spread to new areas, and food and water security become increasingly precarious. The health consequences of climate change are far-reaching and pose a significant challenge to global well-being.

Extreme Weather Events and Their Health Impacts

Climate change is fueling a rise in extreme weather events such as heatwaves, floods, droughts, and wildfires. These events have devastating impacts on human health:

  • Heatwaves: Heatwaves can cause heatstroke, dehydration, and other heat-related illnesses. They can also exacerbate existing health conditions such as cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. Vulnerable populations, such as the elderly and those with chronic illnesses, are particularly at risk.
  • Floods: Floods can cause injuries, drownings, and displacement. They can also contaminate water supplies, leading to outbreaks of waterborne diseases such as cholera and dysentery. Floodwaters can also create breeding grounds for mosquitoes, increasing the risk of mosquito-borne diseases like malaria and dengue fever.
  • Droughts: Droughts can lead to food and water shortages, malnutrition, and famine. They can also increase the risk of wildfires, which can release harmful pollutants into the air.
  • Wildfires: Wildfires can cause burns, respiratory problems, and other health issues. The smoke from wildfires can travel long distances, impacting air quality and health in regions far from the fire’s origin.

Changing Disease Patterns and the Spread of Infectious Diseases

As the climate changes, the geographic ranges of many infectious diseases are shifting. Warmer temperatures and changes in precipitation patterns are creating more favorable conditions for disease vectors such as mosquitoes, ticks, and rodents. This is leading to the spread of diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, Zika virus, and Lyme disease to new areas.

Food and Water Insecurity: A Growing Threat to Global Health

Climate change is also threatening food and water security, which are essential for human health. Droughts, floods, and other extreme weather events can disrupt agricultural production, leading to food shortages and price increases. Rising sea levels and saltwater intrusion can contaminate freshwater sources, making them unsuitable for drinking and irrigation. These impacts can lead to malnutrition, dehydration, and other health problems.

Vulnerable Populations: Bearing the Brunt of Climate Change

The health impacts of climate change are not evenly distributed. Vulnerable populations, such as children, the elderly, people with disabilities, and those living in poverty, are disproportionately affected. They are more likely to live in areas prone to extreme weather events, have limited access to healthcare, and lack the resources to cope with the impacts of climate change.

Case Studies: Climate Change’s Impact on Global Health

  • The 2003 European heatwave is estimated to have caused over 70,000 deaths, primarily among the elderly.
  • The 2010 floods in Pakistan affected over 20 million people, causing widespread displacement, food shortages, and outbreaks of waterborne diseases.
  • The ongoing drought in the Horn of Africa has led to severe food insecurity, malnutrition, and famine, affecting millions of people.

Environmental Injustice: Unequal Burdens of Environmental Risk

Environmental injustice is a critical issue that intersects with global health. It refers to the disproportionate exposure of marginalized communities, often communities of color and low-income communities, to environmental hazards and pollution. This unequal burden of environmental risk has significant consequences for the health and well-being of these communities.

Unequal Exposure to Environmental Hazards

Marginalized communities are often located in areas with higher levels of environmental pollution, such as near industrial facilities, highways, and waste disposal sites. These communities may also have limited access to green spaces, clean water, and healthy food options. This unequal exposure to environmental hazards can lead to a range of health problems, including respiratory diseases, cancer, and developmental disorders.

Health Disparities: A Consequence of Environmental Injustice

Environmental injustice contributes to health disparities, meaning that marginalized communities experience higher rates of illness and disease compared to more privileged populations. These disparities are evident in a range of health outcomes, including life expectancy, infant mortality, and chronic disease rates.

Case Studies: Environmental Injustice and Health Disparities

  • Cancer Alley, Louisiana: This 85-mile stretch along the Mississippi River is home to over 150 petrochemical plants and refineries. The residents of this area, predominantly African American, experience disproportionately high rates of cancer and other health problems.
  • Indigenous Communities and Mining Pollution: Indigenous communities around the world are often disproportionately affected by mining activities, which can contaminate water sources, soil, and air. This can lead to a range of health problems, including respiratory diseases, cancer, and neurological disorders.

Related Questions and Answers

  1. What are the main health impacts of climate change? The main health impacts of climate change include heat-related illnesses, injuries and deaths from extreme weather events, the spread of infectious diseases, food and water insecurity, and mental health problems.
  2. How does climate change affect children’s health? Climate change poses a significant threat to children’s health. Children are more vulnerable to the effects of heat, pollution, and infectious diseases. Climate change can also disrupt children’s access to food, water, and education, with long-term consequences for their health and well-being.
  3. What is environmental injustice, and how does it affect health? Environmental injustice refers to the disproportionate exposure of marginalized communities to environmental hazards and pollution. This unequal burden of environmental risk can lead to health disparities, with marginalized communities experiencing higher rates of illness and disease.
  4. How can we address environmental injustice and health disparities? Addressing environmental injustice requires a multi-faceted approach, including policy changes, community empowerment, and investments in clean energy and sustainable infrastructure. It is also important to address the root causes of environmental injustice, such as racism, poverty, and discrimination.

Strategies for Mitigating Environmental Health Risks

Recognizing the intricate connection between the environment and global health is the first step towards a healthier future. However, understanding is not enough; action is required. A multifaceted approach that encompasses policy changes, technological innovation, and community engagement is essential to mitigate environmental health risks and create a sustainable future for all.

Policy and Regulation: Safeguarding Public Health Through Legislation

Strong environmental policies and regulations are crucial for protecting public health from environmental hazards. Governments and international organizations play a vital role in setting standards, enforcing regulations, and promoting sustainable practices.

  • Stricter Emissions Standards: Implementing stricter emissions standards for industries and vehicles can significantly reduce air pollution and its associated health risks. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the United States has established National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for six common pollutants, including particulate matter, ozone, and carbon monoxide. These standards are designed to protect public health and welfare.
  • Investing in Clean Energy: Transitioning to clean energy sources such as solar, wind, and hydropower can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the health impacts of climate change. The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, passed in the US, provides significant investments in clean energy and aims to reduce carbon emissions by 40% by 2030.
  • Protecting Water Resources: Implementing effective water management practices, investing in wastewater treatment infrastructure, and promoting water conservation can ensure access to clean water and reduce the risk of waterborne diseases. The Clean Water Act (CWA) is a landmark federal law in the United States that establishes the basic structure for regulating discharges of pollutants into the waters of the United States and regulating quality standards for surface waters.

Technological Innovation: Harnessing Technology for a Healthier Environment

Technological advancements offer promising solutions for addressing environmental health challenges. From cleaner energy sources to advanced filtration systems, technology can play a pivotal role in reducing pollution, improving resource management, and protecting public health.

  • Cleaner Energy Technologies: Continued research and development of cleaner energy technologies, such as solar panels, wind turbines, and electric vehicles, can reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and decrease harmful emissions. The Department of Energy (DOE) in the United States invests in research and development of clean energy technologies to accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy.
  • Air and Water Filtration Systems: Advanced filtration systems can remove pollutants from the air and water, making them safer for human consumption and reducing exposure to harmful substances. Innovations in nanotechnology and membrane filtration are leading to more efficient and cost-effective ways to purify water and air.
  • Environmental Monitoring: Developing sophisticated monitoring systems can help detect environmental hazards early on, allowing for timely interventions and risk reduction. The EPA’s AirNow program provides real-time air quality data for over 300 cities across the United States, helping individuals make informed decisions about their health.

Community-Based Approaches: Empowering Communities for Environmental Health

Community engagement is essential for effective environmental health action. Empowering communities to participate in decision-making processes, educating individuals about environmental risks, and promoting sustainable practices at the local level can lead to positive change and improved health outcomes.

  • Community Participation: Involving community members in environmental decision-making processes ensures that their voices are heard and their concerns are addressed. This can lead to more equitable and sustainable solutions that benefit the entire community. The EPA’s Environmental Justice program aims to empower communities to participate in environmental decision-making and address environmental injustices.
  • Environmental Health Education: Educating individuals about environmental health risks and preventive measures can empower them to make informed choices and protect their health. This includes information on air and water quality, safe food handling, and reducing exposure to harmful chemicals. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides a wealth of resources on environmental health topics for the public.
  • Sustainable Practices: Promoting sustainable practices at the community level, such as recycling, composting, and using public transportation, can reduce environmental impact and improve health outcomes. The Sustainable Communities Network is a national network of organizations and individuals working to promote sustainable communities across the United States.

Related Questions and Answers

  1. What are some examples of environmental policies that protect public health? Examples of environmental policies that protect public health include the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Toxic Substances Control Act in the United States. These laws regulate pollution, set standards for air and water quality, and control the use of harmful chemicals.
  2. How can technology help address environmental health challenges? Technology can help address environmental health challenges by providing cleaner energy sources, developing more efficient filtration systems, and enabling early detection of environmental hazards. For example, solar panels and wind turbines can reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, while advanced filtration systems can remove pollutants from the air and water.
  3. What are some ways that communities can get involved in environmental health action? Communities can get involved in environmental health action by participating in local environmental groups, advocating for stronger environmental policies, and adopting sustainable practices in their daily lives. They can also educate themselves and others about environmental health risks and preventive measures.

The Role of Healthcare Professionals in Environmental Health

Healthcare professionals are not just healers; they are also advocates, educators, and researchers who play a crucial role in addressing environmental health challenges. Their expertise and influence can help shape policies, educate the public, and drive research that informs effective interventions.

Environmental Health Education: Equipping the Next Generation of Healers

Integrating environmental health into medical and public health curricula is essential for preparing future healthcare providers to address the growing burden of environmentally-linked diseases. This includes:

  • Understanding Environmental Exposures: Teaching students how to recognize and assess environmental exposures in their patients, such as lead poisoning, pesticide exposure, and air pollution-related illnesses. The National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) offers a variety of educational resources and training programs for healthcare professionals on environmental health topics.
  • Identifying Vulnerable Populations: Educating students about the populations most vulnerable to environmental health risks, such as children, pregnant women, the elderly, and those with pre-existing conditions. This knowledge can help healthcare providers tailor their care and interventions to meet the specific needs of these populations.
  • Preventive Medicine: Emphasizing the importance of preventive medicine in addressing environmental health risks, such as counseling patients on reducing exposure to harmful substances and promoting healthy behaviors. The American College of Preventive Medicine (ACPM) is a professional organization that advocates for preventive medicine and provides resources for healthcare professionals.

Advocacy: Speaking Up for Environmental Health

Healthcare professionals have a unique platform to advocate for policies and practices that protect public health from environmental threats. Their voices can influence decision-makers and raise awareness about the importance of environmental health.

  • Policy Advocacy: Supporting policies that promote clean air and water, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and protect vulnerable populations from environmental hazards. The American Public Health Association (APHA) is a leading advocate for public health policies, including those related to environmental health.
  • Community Engagement: Partnering with community organizations to address environmental health concerns at the local level. This can involve educating community members about environmental risks, advocating for policy changes, and participating in community health initiatives.
  • Professional Organizations: Joining professional organizations that advocate for environmental health, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Council on Environmental Health, which focuses on protecting children’s health from environmental threats.

Research: Uncovering the Complexities of Environment and Health

Research is essential for understanding the complex relationships between environmental exposures and human health. Healthcare professionals can contribute to this field by:

  • Conducting Research: Investigating the health effects of specific environmental exposures, such as air pollution, water contamination, and chemical toxins. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) is a leading research institution that funds and conducts research on the environmental causes of disease.
  • Translating Research into Practice: Applying research findings to develop effective interventions and preventive strategies for environmental health risks. This can involve developing new diagnostic tools, treatment protocols, and public health campaigns.
  • Collaborating with Researchers: Partnering with researchers from other disciplines, such as environmental science, toxicology, and epidemiology, to address complex environmental health problems. This interdisciplinary approach can lead to innovative solutions and a deeper understanding of the environment-health connection.

Related Questions and Answers

  1. How can healthcare professionals educate their patients about environmental health risks? Healthcare professionals can educate their patients about environmental health risks by providing information on the health effects of specific exposures, recommending preventive measures, and referring them to relevant resources. They can also encourage patients to ask questions and be active participants in their own health care.
  2. What role can healthcare professionals play in advocating for environmental health policies? Healthcare professionals can advocate for environmental health policies by writing letters to elected officials, testifying at public hearings, and joining professional organizations that advocate for environmental health. They can also use their expertise to educate the public and media about the importance of environmental health.
  3. What are some examples of environmental health research conducted by healthcare professionals? Healthcare professionals have conducted research on a wide range of environmental health topics, including the health effects of air pollution, water contamination, and chemical exposures. They have also investigated the impact of climate change on health and the role of environmental factors in the development of chronic diseases.

Global Collaboration: A United Front for a Healthier Planet

Environmental health challenges transcend national borders. Air pollution, climate change, and the spread of infectious diseases know no boundaries. Therefore, addressing these challenges requires a concerted effort from the global community. International collaboration is crucial for sharing knowledge, resources, and best practices to protect the health of people and the planet.

International Agreements: Paving the Path to a Sustainable Future

International agreements play a crucial role in establishing global standards and commitments for environmental protection and health promotion. These agreements provide a framework for cooperation, research, and action on a global scale.

  • Paris Agreement: The Paris Agreement, adopted in 2015, is a landmark international treaty on climate change. It aims to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The agreement sets out a global action plan to put the world on track to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming. The United States rejoined the Paris Agreement in 2021.
  • World Health Organization (WHO) Initiatives: The WHO plays a leading role in promoting global health, including environmental health. It develops guidelines, provides technical assistance, and conducts research on a wide range of environmental health issues. For example, the WHO Air Quality Guidelines provide evidence-based recommendations for air quality standards to protect public health.
  • Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): The SDGs, adopted by the United Nations in 2015, are a set of 17 global goals designed to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all. Several of the SDGs directly address environmental health issues, such as clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, and sustainable cities and communities.

Sharing Knowledge and Resources: Building Capacity for Environmental Health

Developed countries have a responsibility to share their knowledge, expertise, and resources with developing countries to help them build capacity for environmental health protection. This can involve:

  • Technical Assistance: Providing technical assistance to developing countries to help them develop and implement environmental health policies and programs. This can include training healthcare professionals, supporting environmental monitoring efforts, and providing access to clean technologies. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) supports environmental health programs in developing countries around the world.
  • Financial Support: Providing financial support to developing countries to help them invest in environmental health infrastructure, such as clean water and sanitation systems, air quality monitoring networks, and renewable energy sources. The World Bank provides loans and grants to developing countries for environmental projects.
  • Research Collaboration: Collaborating with researchers and institutions in developing countries to conduct research on local environmental health challenges and develop tailored solutions. This can help ensure that interventions are effective and relevant to the local context. The Fogarty International Center at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) supports research collaborations between U.S. and international scientists on global health issues, including environmental health.

Related Questions and Answers

  1. What are some examples of international agreements that address environmental health issues? Examples of international agreements that address environmental health issues include the Paris Agreement on climate change, the Minamata Convention on Mercury, the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, and the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal.
  2. How can developed countries help developing countries address environmental health challenges? Developed countries can help developing countries address environmental health challenges by providing technical assistance, financial support, and research collaboration. They can also support the development of strong environmental policies and regulations in developing countries.
  3. What are the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and how do they relate to environmental health? The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of 17 global goals designed to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all. Several of the SDGs directly address environmental health issues, such as clean water and sanitation (SDG 6), affordable and clean energy (SDG 7), sustainable cities and communities (SDG 11), and climate action (SDG 13).

A Healthy Environment for a Healthy Future: A Shared Responsibility

The health of our planet and the health of its people are inextricably linked. From the air we breathe to the water we drink, our environment profoundly influences our well-being. This connection is at the heart of environmental health, a field that examines the complex interplay between environmental factors and human health on a global scale. Understanding these environmental determinants of health is paramount for preventing disease, promoting well-being, and achieving a sustainable future.

As we’ve seen, the environment plays a crucial role in shaping global health outcomes. Air pollution, water contamination, chemical exposures, and climate change all pose significant threats to human health, particularly for vulnerable populations. Addressing these challenges requires a multifaceted approach that encompasses policy changes, technological innovation, and community engagement. Healthcare professionals have a unique role to play in educating the public, advocating for policy change, and conducting research to inform effective interventions. Global collaboration is also essential for sharing knowledge, resources, and best practices to protect the health of people and the planet.

Ultimately, creating a healthy environment for a healthy future is a shared responsibility. Individuals, communities, governments, healthcare professionals, and international organizations all have a role to play in protecting our planet and ensuring the well-being of current and future generations. By working together, we can create a world where everyone has the opportunity to live a long, healthy, and fulfilling life in a thriving environment.

Frequently Asked Questions: Environment and Global Health

  1. What is the most significant environmental health risk today? Climate change is widely considered the most significant environmental health risk today. Its far-reaching consequences, such as extreme weather events, infectious disease spread, and food and water insecurity, pose a major threat to global health and well-being.
  2. How can I protect my health from environmental risks? You can take several steps to protect your health from environmental risks:
    • Stay Informed: Keep yourself updated on environmental health issues and risks in your area.
    • Reduce Your Carbon Footprint: Make sustainable choices in your daily life, such as conserving energy, reducing waste, and choosing environmentally friendly products.
    • Support Policies: Advocate for policies that protect the environment and public health, such as those promoting clean energy, sustainable agriculture, and pollution reduction.
    • Advocate for Clean Air and Water: Support initiatives that promote clean air and water quality in your community.
  3. What are the health impacts of plastic pollution? Plastic pollution poses several health risks:
    • Chemical Exposure: Plastics can release harmful chemicals, such as bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates, which can disrupt the endocrine system and have other adverse health effects.
    • Food and Water Contamination: Microplastics can contaminate food and water sources, potentially entering the human body and causing unknown health effects.
    • Environmental Impacts: Plastic pollution contributes to climate change and harms marine ecosystems, indirectly impacting human health through disruptions to food systems and the spread of infectious diseases.
  4. How does deforestation affect global health? Deforestation has several negative impacts on global health:
    • Infectious Diseases: Deforestation can increase the risk of infectious diseases by disrupting ecosystems and bringing humans into closer contact with wildlife that may harbor pathogens.
    • Climate Change: Deforestation contributes to climate change by reducing the planet’s ability to absorb carbon dioxide, leading to a cascade of health impacts associated with rising temperatures and extreme weather events.
    • Ecosystem Disruption: Forests provide essential ecosystem services, such as clean air and water, that support human health. Deforestation can disrupt these services, leading to negative health outcomes.
  5. Is there a connection between biodiversity loss and human health? Yes, there is a strong connection between biodiversity loss and human health. Biodiversity loss can:
    • Increase Infectious Disease Risk: Disruptions to ecosystems can increase the risk of zoonotic diseases (diseases that jump from animals to humans), such as COVID-19.
    • Disrupt Food Systems: Biodiversity loss can threaten food security by reducing crop yields, disrupting pollination, and impacting fisheries.
    • Harm Mental Well-being: Exposure to nature and biodiversity has been linked to improved mental health and well-being. Biodiversity loss can therefore have negative impacts on mental health.

By understanding the interconnectedness of environmental and human health, we can make informed decisions, advocate for change, and work towards a healthier future for ourselves and the planet.

Sources

  1. vocal.media/earth/climate-change-df2xl0d4m
  2. www.southribble.gov.uk/article/1546/Introduction
  3. www.produktkanzlei.com/en/2021/06/25/supply-chain-due-diligence-for-human-rights-and-environmental-harm/
  4. www.mdpi.com/2073-4441/13/5/651
  5. www.sierraclub.org/ohio/blog/2017/03/why-do-401-and-404-permits-matter

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Inspect the relationship between environment and global health (CO5).

Inspect the relationship between environment and global health (CO5)..

Activity Learning Outcomes 

Through this assignment, the student will demonstrate the ability to: 

  1. Inspect the relationship between the environment and global health (CO5). 
  2. Appraise global health problems considering WHO SDG’s as well as related epidemiological data (CO5). 

Assignment Requirements  

  1. Go to your state (Florida) government web page. Find one health policy enacted within the last two (2) years at the state level. Write down the bill number and the sponsors of the bill and include this information in your initial post. 
  2. Write a minimum of a one-page critical analysis summary of the policy. (250 words double spaced, APA). Your summary should integrate the concepts of advocacy, population health, and the ANA ethical statements (“The Code”), and course readings, to include a minimum of one course scholarly article (provided at the end of the document). Be sure to speak to the role of advocacy and population health.

**To see view the grading criteria/rubric, please click on the 3 dots in the box at the end of the solid gray bar above the discussion board title and then Show Rubric.

DISCUSSION CONTENT  Category  Points  %  Description  Scholarly   13  22%  The student actively stimulates and sustains inquiry by making reflective, insightful comments, asking thoughtful questions and/or engaging in a scholarly discussion.  The student expresses a clear idea of the topic under discussion and sustains inquiry to explore relevant issues. The student recognizes values or values conflict as things that form the assumption basis of arguments and recognizes when it is important to acknowledge these values.  The student recognizes the statements’ accuracy, logic, relevance, or clarity. The student asks clarifying questions and knows when clarifying questions need to be asked.  The student distinguishes fact from opinion.   Application   20  33%  All components of discussion prompt addressed (met) in the initial posting. The student’s writing conveys an understanding of significant ideas relevant to the issue under discussion. This is indicated by integration of course and weekly objectives, as well as readings from text and articles.   All posts should make correct use of terminology, precise selection of the pieces of information required to make a point, correct and appropriate use of examples and counterexamples, demonstrations of which distinctions are important to make, and concise explanations to the point.  Information and knowledge are accurate. The student elaborates statements with accurate explanations, reasons, or evidence from the course and/or weekly objectives. All postings integrate scholarly sources to support points consistently.    Interactive Dialogue  10  16.6%  Responds to ideas in a way that advances discussion with engagement, depth, rigor, and application.  Interacts with a professional tone and is able to express opinions with ownership and without judgement. Chooses to include the professional experience to the discussion board mindful of appropriateness and boundaries. Experience is integrated as it supports the discussion board topic and utilizes scholarly references to support overall topic.     43  72%  Total CONTENT Points= 43 pts  DISCUSSION FORMAT  Category  Points  %  Description  APA(current edition)

12  20%  In text citations are formatted per APA. Reference list is formatted per APA. Spelling, grammar, and scholarly tone per APA.   Spelling / Grammar etc.  5  8%  Posts should utilize correct spelling and grammar(sentence structure and avoidance of slang or casual language).    17  28%  Total FORMAT Points=17 pts    60  100%  DISCUSSION TOTAL=60 points 

Scholarly articles:

Angelini, K. (2017). Climate change, health, and the role of nurses. Nursing for Women’s Health, 21(2), 79-83. https://nwhjournal.org/article/S1751-4851(17)30049-1/fulltext

Kurth, E. A. (2017). Planetary health and the role of nursing: A call to action. Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 49(6), 598-605. https://doi.org/10.1111/jnu.12343

Kooienga, A. S. & Carryer, B. J. (2015). Globalization and advancing primary health care nurse practitioner practice. The Journal for Nurse Practitioners, 11(8), 804-811. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nurpra.2015.06.012

Genetics/genomics competencies for RNs and nurses with graduate degrees. (2019). Nursing Management, 50(1), 1-3. https://doi.org/10.1097/01.numa.0000552872.75154.83 (Links to an external site.)

Reed, K. E., Ingram, T. & Edelman, A. E. (2019). Three things every nurse practitioner can do to integrate genetics into practice. Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, 31(1), 6-7. https://www.nursingcenter.com/wkhlrp/Handlers/articleContent.pdf?key=pdf_01741002-201901000-00003

Gonzalez, K.,Shaughnessy, M. J., Kabigting, E. R., Tomasulo West, D., Callari Robinson, J. F., Chen, Q., Stewart Fahs, P. (2018). The healthcare of vulnerable populations within rural societies: A systematic review. Online Journal of Rural Nursing & Health Care, 18(1), 112-147. https://doi.org/10.14574/ojrnhc.v18i1.507

Morgan, A. S. & Stokes, L. (2017). Overcoming marginalization in the transgender community. American Nurse Today, 12(5), 34-35. https://www.myamericannurse.com/overcoming-marginalization-transgender-community/

Erie, C. J., Pueringer, R. M., Brue, M. S., Chamberlain. M. A. & Hodge, O. D. (2016). Statin use and incident cataract surgery: A case-control study. Ophthalmic Epidemiology, 23(1), 40-45. https://doi.org/10.3109/09286586.2015.1077258

Moukaddem, A., Chaaya, M., Jaffa, M., Sibai, A., Slim, Z., & Uthman, I. (2017). Fibromyalgia: Epidemiology and risk factors, a population-based case-control study in Lebanon. International Journal of Rheumatic Diseases, 20(2), 169-176. https://doi.org/10.1111/1756-185X.12701

Gawlik, K., Melnyk, B., & Tan, A. (2018). An epidemiological study of population health reveals social smoking as a major cardiovascular risk factor. American Journal of Health Promotion, 32(5), 1221-1227. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0890117117706420

Inspect the relationship between environment and global health (CO5).

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