Environmental health is the discipline that attempts to study how the external environment impacts human health. It has become more relevant in the modern world as climate change, and man-made influences begin to alter the natural world. Ecological balances and environmental quality contribute to long-term human health. This report will investigate the concept and context of environmental health as well as how it can be improved from a nursing perspective.
Environmental health is a global public health priority as the natural environment of the human habitat is directly linked to physical health. The concept can be applied to water, air, and food (soil) sources that human civilization requires for survival. Furthermore, physical, biological, and chemical features of the world around can be considered part of the environment. Drinking water, nutrition, and basic sanitation can easily become health hazards.
While some hazards are naturally occurring (such as weather and animal disease carriers), others have appeared due to man-made activity. Environmental health seeks to study the influences that the environment has on human health and disease. There have been inherent consequences of human manipulation in the natural world, resulting in damaging contexts such as pollution (U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2018). Therefore, it is necessary to investigate how the surrounding environment can impact public health.
One of the most evident environmental health hazards is air pollution, both outside and indoors. Pollutants can trigger asthma and cause allergic reactions. More extreme cases lead to chemical poisoning and cancer. Another environmental health issue is the presence of toxic chemicals in buildings, particularly lead and radon which is responsible for poisonings that cause cancer, stunted growth, and learning disabilities. There are other lesser-known aspects which can be attributed to environmental health.
Food hygiene which leads to contamination during the food growth and preparation processes can cause severe illness. Pests, vermin, and vectors such as mosquitoes are a potential health hazard by spreading infectious disease. Furthermore, inappropriate waste management and wastewater treatment create soil toxicity which affects water supply chemistry and leads to a water-borne disease arising during consumption by humans (Missouri Department of Health and Human Services, n.d.).
Improving and Eliminating Barriers
Nursing practice is guided by standards that are established by leaders as well as government public health agencies. The nursing process of assessment, diagnosis, planning, intervention, and evaluation can be applied specifically to environmental health. However, the California Public Health Foundation determined the three roles of nurses in respect to environmental health as an investigator, educator, and advocate. Therefore, nurses can be alert to environmental factors influencing health and notice trends in health history and illnesses. The investigation can encompass research or fieldwork attempting to identify and control environmental exposures that impact community health.
As an educator, a nurse can address environmental factors with patients, including discussing potential exposures as well as lifestyle changes that can be made to avoid risks. Public health initiatives for education are important for informing the community about environmentally safe practices. Finally, as an advocate, nurses can engage in socio-political contexts to secure that proper regulations and guidelines are practiced for human activity that may present environmental hazards. Working within a range of organizations, firms, and community groups is essential to advocate appropriate protections for environmental health (Frumkin, 2016).
Environmental health is an important aspect to consider within modern society like climate change and increasing human activity is altering surroundings. These aspects can influence the necessary food, water, air, and soil that humans interact with and lead to severe public health issues. As a nurse, it is necessary to identify these factors within the community, educate patients, and advocate with relevant organizations for the prevention of environmental health hazards.
Frumkin, H. (Ed.). (2016). Environmental health: From global to local (3rd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
Missouri Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Environmental factors. Web.
U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2018). Environmental health. Web.