Within the system of relations between people and the environment, the matter of population’s health evaluation gets more and more important. Humanity’s health depends on multiple factors, among which are the natural conditions, type of activity, the way of life, the level of culture and hygiene habits, and medical service. Still, the major factor, which is mostly not visible but very influential, is environmental health. The close interdependence of environmental and human health makes the investigation of their present condition, mutual influence and the ways to prevent harmful effects critical.
The Problem of Environmental Health in Contemporary Conditions
Some decades ago environmental health was not such a burning problem. The modern world meets the environmental condition and humanity’s health crisis. Despite the apparent progress in health care and environment protection, the situation is at the edge of a global disaster. Still, realizing the problem is the first step to its solution.
In fact, different researchers formulate their definitions of environmental health. It appears to be a good idea to stick to that provided by the World Health Organization. “Environmental health addresses all the physical, chemical, and biological factors external to a person, and all the related factors impacting behaviors. It encompasses the assessment and control of those environmental factors that can potentially affect health. It is targeted towards preventing disease and creating health-supportive environments. This definition excludes behavior not related to the environment, as well as behavior associated with the social and cultural environment, and genetics (What is environmental health, 2013). Thus, environmental health is a complex notion, including various factors.
The major environmental risk factors should be named and analyzed. The air, water, and soil pollution is the first element which is significantly influenced by the people. All kinds of industries, as well as agricultural activity, contribute to the contamination. Not only are they hazardous components, for example speaking of air pollution, people rarely mention smoking, which on a scale of Earth is also dangerous. The chemical exposures of industries cannot be left apart as well, for not all manufacturers care about the safety of the waste they produce. The climate change may be a less obvious factor, but in the context of the planet it is a time bomb, and nobody knows when it is going to explode. The influence of ultraviolet radiation should also be considered. Because of the ozone holes, it becomes more dangerous than it used to be.
The mentioned above reasons lead to many diseases. Some environmental factors directly influence the people’s health, and the effect of the others may appear after years. So, the task of modern science is to reveal those links and look for the ways out.
Environmental Factors and Human Health
The environment is being constantly changed by humanity. In its turn, it influences the people, and this influence is a danger that can affect everyone. Numerous studies tell about the increasing rates of illnesses, provoked by the environmental health problems. Among these are contagious diseases, heart and lungs problems, reproductive disorders and many others.
Thus, Brown discusses the influence of toxic exposures on illnesses like asthma, breast cancer and so-called Gulf War illnesses (2013). Nieuwenhuijsen, Dadvand, Grellier, Martinez, & Vrijheid deal with the impact of environmental risk factors like “air pollution, environmental tobacco smoke, pesticides, solvents, metals, radiation, water contaminants (disinfection by-products, arsenic, and nitrates) and chemicals (persistent organic pollutants) on pregnancy outcomes such as pregnancy loss, stillbirth, fetal growth, preterm birth and congenital anomalies (2013, par.7). Another research proves the influence of long-lasting air pollution of cardiovascular mortality (Hoek et al., 2013). Even agricultural activity may cause numerous health problems for people who do the farming and just live in the agricultural areas due to the use of chemicals (Donham, & Thelin, 2016).
The knowledge of the possible consequences of the unhealthy environment is supposed to reduce its impact on the health of humanity. When people are aware of the possible outcomes of their activity, they are likely to consider more environmentally friendly things to do. Hence, the population should be informed about the interconnections of the way they live and their environment conditions.
The Role of Nurses in the Environmental Health Issues
The environment is a crucial factor that influences health. Long-term experience shows that it is the reason of people’s health condition. The health problems, if they appear, are treated by doctors, but the role of nurses in the elimination of health problems should not be underestimated.
The organizations like American or Canadian Nurses Association in “Code of Ethics for Registered Nurses” “…support registered nurses’ engagement in environmental health issues as part of their work for social justice” (Canadian Nurses Association, par.2). Nurses are encouraged to act “supporting environmental preservation and restoration and advocating for initiatives that reduce environmentally harmful practices to promote health and well-being” and “maintaining awareness of broader global health concerns such as environmental pollution” (Canadian Nurses Association, par.2).
In fact, nurses can do more than it can be expected. They are usually trusted by the population, and they can share their experience, and people will listen to them. Health promotion with the background of environmental health affairs is one of the tasks they may fulfill. With their appropriate education, nurses can inform the people about environmental risks and both their consequences and prevention. The daily work of a nurse has to be guided by environmental health standards, integrating them into every part of the nursing activity. The primary goal here is to diminish the bad influence of the environment and to popularize the safe environment.
Going from theory to practice, nurses can contribute to the following aspects of environmental health. First of all, they should be precise in fulfilling their direct duties. Working with drugs and medical equipment, they are to follow the instructions on use and utilizing the medical stuff, for it may contain hazardous substances which are dangerous when used improperly. Secondly, nurses are the medium between the doctor and the people, so they should carefully follow the doctor’s instructions when treating a patient. Besides, they are to advise the population about making the environment a safer place to live. Finally, nurses can inform the people on prevention of diseases, caused by the environmental problems.
Summarizing the above it should be said, that the people themselves are responsible for the environment they live in. Environmental health is exhaustible, and there may come the time when it will be impossible to improve the situation. Thus, environmentally friendly education, global informing of the humanity about the consequence of their actions should become the primary concern of the world authorities.
Brown, P. (2013). Toxic Exposures: Contested Illnesses and the Environmental Health Movement. Columbia University Press.
Donham, J.K., & Thelin, A. (2016). Agricultural Medicine: Rural Occupational and Environmental Health, Safety, and Prevention. New Jersey: Wiley-Blackwell
Hoek, G., Krishnan, M.R., Beelen, R., Peters, A., Ostro, B., Brunekreef, B., & Kaufman, D.J. (2013). Long-term air pollution exposure and cardio- respiratory mortality: a review. Environmental Health. Web.
Nieuwenhuijsen J.M., Dadvand, P., Grellier, J., Martinez, D., & Vrijheid, M. (2013). Environmental risk factors of pregnancy outcomes: a summary of recent meta-analyses of epidemiological studies. Environmental Health. Web.
Nurses and environmental health (2009). Canadian Nurses Association. Web.
What is environmental health? (2013). Environmental Health Students’ Portal. Web.