Environmental health public health focuses on the relationships between people and their environment; promotes human health and well-being; and fosters healthy and safe communities. Environmental health is a key part of any comprehensive public health system. The field works to advance policies and programs to reduce chemical and other environmental exposures in air, water, soil and food to protect people and provide communities with healthier environments.
The built environment is the human-made features of our communities that include roads, sidewalks, housing, buildings, urban centers, towns, cities and megaliths. The way we design and build our environment affects our physical and mental health. When communities have plenty of walkable sidewalks and bike-friendly routes for kids to take to school, people are more active. When people can walk where they need to go, car traffic decreases, and that can improve air quality and respiratory health. When children live in homes that do not contain lead or asthma triggers, they are better able to grow and develop.
Everyone deserves a healthy community. Those are places where everyone has a safe and healthy home, everyone has access to safe and healthy food and decision-makers consider health and equity when making transportation and land-use decision.
This expands Environmental health as the science and practice of preventing human injury and illness by identifying and evaluating hazardous environmental sources and limiting exposures to those sources in air, water, soil, food, and other environmental media that may adversely affect human health.
As the former director of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry’s Office of Tribal Affairs, I directed agency programs, policy, and science initiatives that addressed hazardous waste sites that were impacting the health of American Indian/Alaska Native governments and populations.
Seneca Scientific Solutions can author, review or assist in authoring a Public Health Assessment or Health Consultation for communities impacted by hazardous waste sites. A Public Health Assessment is defined as: “The evaluation of data and information on the release of hazardous substances into the environment in order to assess any [past], current, or future impact on public health, develop health advisories or other recommendations, and identify studies or actions needed to evaluate and mitigate or prevent human health effects (42 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 90, published in 55 Federal Register 5136, February 13, 1990).
A public health assessment is conducted to determine to what extent people have been exposed to hazardous substances associated with a hazardous waste sites and, if so, whether that exposure is harmful and should be stopped or reduced. The public health assessment process helps answer public health questions and defines what is needed to protect public health.
There are a number of goals of the process that you should keep in mind throughout the assessment. These are:
- Evaluate site conditions and determine the nature and extent of environmental contamination.
- Define potential human exposure pathways related to site-specific environmental contaminants.
- Identify who may be or may have been exposed to environmental contamination associated with a site (past, current, and future).
- Examine the public health implications of site-related exposures, through the examination of environmental and health effects data (toxicologic, epidemiologic, medical, and health outcome data).
- Address those implications by recommending relevant public health actions to prevent harmful exposures.
- Identify and respond to community health concerns and clearly communicate the findings of the assessment.
Communities often play an important role in the public health assessment process. For a particular site, the community generally consists of people who live and work at or around the site. The community may include, for example, residents, site or facility personnel, members of local action groups, local officials, tribal members, health professionals, and local media.
Community members are a resource for and a primary audience and beneficiaries of the public health assessment process. They can provide important information and ideas that may prove valuable input to the public health assessment. For example, they can often supply site-specific information that might otherwise not be documented. As you conduct your assessment, community members may also want to know what the process involves, what they can and cannot expect, what conclusions you reach, and in general how the public health assessment process can help address their concerns. The relationship you build with the community throughout your public health assessment process will influence how much community members trust and how they react to your public health messages and recommendations. For all these reasons, effective involvement of and communication with the community is important throughout the public health assessment process.
Other focus areas:
- Children's Environmental Health
- Climate Change
- Environmental Public Health Tracking
- Empowering Environmental Health Professionals
- Healthy Community Design
- Preventing Chemical Exposure