The connection between the environment and public health is undeniable. Everything from air and water quality, chemicals, soil pollution, food contamination, and sanitation has an effect on the ability of people in the community to live healthy, fulfilling lives. As the truths about current environmental concerns are illuminated, organizations such as the European Union and the European Commission are taking action to protect people from chronic diseases that stem from poor environmental conditions.
According to the European Commission, a significant portion of the diseases found in industrialized countries are attributable to environmental factors. Of particular concern to Europe is the large number of respiratory diseases and cancers in children and at-risk groups.
As an effort to minimize the risk for disease as much as possible, the EC adopted the Environment and Health Action Plan (2004-2010) to obtain more knowledge about the connection between disease and environmental risk factors. The EC also created a discussion forum about health risks and the environment to facilitate the sharing of ideas between stakeholders from various disciplines.
The EU got involved in the conversation by making “health and environment” one of its four focuses at the Environment Action Program. Although there have been improvements through newly adopted policies, the hazards of environmental pollution are still very real. The Environmental Health Alliance states that air, noise, chemical, and water pollution are some of the factors in the contraction of chronic diseases.
Both the WHO and the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) focused on the negative health effects that accompany air pollution. The WHO project involves a massive review of scientific literature to provide a background before policies are made. Once an extensive understanding of the health risks involved is amassed, evaluations of current WHO guidelines will be made in order to decide if air quality rules need to be stricter. The HEAL also calls on the EU and national leaders to adopt stricter climate and environment policies to protect people from the negative health side effects.
The discussion about how to best deal with unhealthy environmental concerns is still occurring, but with the involvement of several international public health organizations, there is no doubt that a solution will be reached that minimizes the risk of chronic diseases.