The living environment plays a direct role in influencing human health. In fact, nature provides food, shelter, fresh air, and quality drinking water. Nevertheless, the environment is also blamed for various illnesses that affect human beings. Negative environmental factors, including polluted air, contaminated water, unfavorable workplace condition, and congested settlements adversely affect healthy living among the people. Nurses, non-governmental organizations, government agencies, and private sectors should take up necessary measures to reduce the risk brought about by the hazardous environment.
Human life involves the regular interaction with the environment. Indeed, the contacts with the surrounding influence the quality of life, healthy life years, and disparities in health. According to WTO (2016), the environment is a fundamental determinant of health in that it account for about 20% of deaths in the European region. The importance of the environment to human health was highly upheld in 1989 upon the evidence of the impact of the hazardous factors. In fact, the organization initiated the first ever process towards the prevention of the health hazards through the policy formulation. Therefore, collaboration between different sectors has assisted in research on the underlying issues, including the identification of the crucial factors, their implications, and actions to prevent and react in reducing the impact on health.
Information from the Lesson
The effects of the environment comprise the physical, chemical, and biological factors that are external and which affect peoples’ health. Therefore, the elements are significant and they present both the positive and negative aspect of an individual’s health. First, the positive environmental factors assist in sustaining and promoting health. The environmental components are the source of nutrition acquired through farming, hunting, and fishing. Secondly, the environment provides water for drinking, cooking, cleaning, and sanitation, hence promoting human health. Quality of air is required during breathing and respiration processes, while the ozone layer is critical in preventing the population against UV rays and related cancers (WTO, 2016). Furthermore, the space on the land is used for exercise and recreational purpose as well as sanitation purposes that include the recycling of water and disposal of waste materials.
On the other hand, the negative environment is a threat to human health, and should be prevented or controlled. The first category constitute of the conditions favoring disease vectors, including the endemic and exotic vectors. The second one is the invasive biota that encompasses the viruses, and bacteria as well as their hosts and vectors. Thirdly, the quality of air, particularly pollen and pollutions leading respiratory disease and in some cases cancers are part of the environmental threat to health. Hence, the compromised quality of water containing biotic and abiotic contaminations has a significant complication on the quality of human health.
The other pertinent information from the lesson materials is that human activities interfere with the environment, making it hazardous to the health. In fact, activities such as transport and industrializations lead to emission of toxic gases that affect the quality of air (Earth Justice, 2016). Furthermore, the disposal of waste materials and chemicals from the industries on land and water bodies affect the quality of land and water for drinking and other domestic uses. As a result, the productivity of agricultural land and output from fishing is reduced significantly. As such, the quality and quantity of food worsens, and hence nutrition among the people becomes poor.
Particularly, the development of urban centers brings in large populations within the limited space and natural resources. The congestion, in this case, reduces the quality of the environment, which directly affect the healthy living. Additionally, inadequate knowledge among the communities on how to preserve the environment and boost the health wellbeing of the people has been a barrier to prevent and eliminate the health risks associated with the surroundings. Therefore, undertaking the necessary initiatives such as educating the people on the importance of the environment to their health as well as a way to preserve pollution is highly required. Moreover, the governments and other nongovernmental institutions should come up with policies and laws that advocate for environmental preservation to avoid further destruction and health hazards.
The Environmental Factors Affecting Health
The environmental factors that influence human health are diverse but the fundamental ones considered in this discussion include the air quality, climate change, occupational health, urban health, water, and sanitation. In fact, the quality of air we breathe has the direct effect on the respiratory health. In the modern society, there is evidence showing that air pollution has been on the rise and lead to significant burden including death, hospital admissions, and exacerbation of various symptoms. As such, the emissions from motor vehicles, industries, and heating sources contribute largely to the pollution of the air (Earth Justice, 2016). In addition, smoking poses considerable harm to the human health, particularly the aged and those with health conditions such as asthma (WHO, 2016). It is worth noting that clean indoor air is critical to a good health because indoor pollutants principally the smoke from the cooking and heating fuel directly contribute to asthma and allergic reactions as well as chemical poisoning. In fact, the indoor air condition is critical because many people, particularly the aged spend a lot of time in the houses.
According to WHO (2016), the global climate alteration is changing and has a direct effect on human health and quality of life. The changes in the weather affect the geographic range of disease vector. As a result, some disease vectors find it habitable in areas they were perceived not able to survive. Therefore, the populations in such areas are infected with new diseases, hence worsening their health conditions. In addition, the adverse change in weather affects the growth of plants and so the food production is compromised. Notably, the reduced supply of food due to climate change implies that malnutrition related diseases would be on the rise. Besides, the supply and availability of quality drinking water can be affected by the climate change. During the flood seasons, the quality of water is compromised, while during the dry seasons the availability declines. Additionally, climate change alters the quality of air leading to the increased respiratory allergic diseases. For instance, in Europe, there is an increase in the airborne pollen accounting to the augmented respiratory problems.
Occupational health is the other environmental factor affect human wellbeing. According to WHO (2016), poor working conditions result in about 300,000 deaths annually in the European Region. Additionally, a large number of workers are injured with some ending up being incapacitated. Therefore, the wounds become a health issue, as the victims require treatment to nurse the affected parts of the body. Besides, there are risk factors associated with unhealthy working environment depending on the specific place of work. In some workplaces, the noise exceeds the recommended level which might bring hearing issues. On the other hand, the presence of carcinogens, airborne particulate matter, and the ergonomic hazards are key health concerns experienced in the workplaces. The magnitude of occupational health problems is considerably high bearing in mind that millions of people spend a lot of time at the workstation.
To start with, the urban environment is a fundamental factor affecting the healthy living. In fact, existing in communities and neighborhoods that promote the access to essential items, social cohesion, and upheld good physical and psychological wellbeing is essential for a quality health (Lundy, Janes, & Lundy, 2016). With this in mind, most of the urban areas are not designed to promote such preferred factors because the places are characterized by heavy traffic, pollution, noise, and social violence. Individuals living in such an environment are exposed to risks of contacting non-communicable diseases, injuries, and substance abuse. Consequently, the issue of urban pollution is of great significance because about two-thirds of the populations live in metropolitan settlements.
To emphasize, the access to adequate and quality water for drinking and sanitation for hygiene at home, schools, and health facilities have a direct implication for the human health. Lack of access to pure drinking water to more than 62 million people in the European Region is a demonstration of how huge the problem is in the entire world (WHO, 2016). Health problems associated with the inadequate water include diarrhea and other disease outcomes such as hepatitis A and soil-transmitted helminth infections. By and large, the poor and those in the remote rural areas are the most affected as the supply of water and sanitation services are not highly upheld.
Accordingly, the excessive noise is a serious environmental factor in human health. In fact, the issue interferes with people’s activities at work, school, and at home among other places. Individuals exposed to the excessive noise suffer from the disturbed sleep and reduced performance, which affect the cardiovascular and psychophysical performance. In fact, noise, particularly at night can affect the recovery process to chronically ill and elderly people because they are distressed and their peace of mind reduced. In addition, uncontrolled sounds alter the development of the children due to lack of adequate rest; hence, affecting their academic achievement and health. As such, the poor are most affected because they cannot afford housing in quiet and insulated homes like their rich counterparts.
Lastly, housing is an environmental factor affecting people’s health. Indeed, inadequate housing contributes to the prevalence of many preventable diseases, including respiratory, nervous system, and nervous system. Still, poorly designed and constructed homes puts the occupants at risks of accidents. In fact, WHO (2016) points out that in some European countries, home-related accidents kill more people than road accidents.
Possible Actions in Eliminating Environmental Barriers to Health
It is evident that the importance of environment to health cannot be overemphasized. As a nurse, I can play a critical role in eliminating the environmental barriers to health by being an educator. Having known the significance of the environment and its direct implications for individuals’ health, then it is imperative to educate the patients, families, and the workers. Therefore, informing them of the potential adverse effects of being exposed to environmental hazards and how to eliminate such contacts can assist them greatly. Besides, I would strive to provide information about the importance of creating environmentally safe homes, schools, and workplaces. Once in a while, I would be speaking at gatherings to educate the audience of the importance of the environment to their health. For instance, in villages and settlements where sanitation is a problem, one can encourage the people to take up community-based initiatives such as clearing of the drainage and disposal of refuse in a more safe and effective ways (Lundy, Janes & Lundy, 2016). Again, in case of inadequate pure water, the nurse can educate the people on ways of consuming the available amount of water for maximum utility. In other cases, a nurse can educate them on the importance of boiling water or using other purification methods.
Secondly, I would seek to play a role as an advocate by assisting individual patients in accessing the specialized services on health issues arising from environmental hazards. The initiative is significant because a nurse is likely to come across the patients who are in need of the specialized services but are not aware of the place or a practitioner who can help them. The second undertaking, in this regard, is to take the responsibility of contacting agencies, individuals, and organizations outside the health care system to respond and change hazardous environmental conditions (Lundy, Janes, & Lundy, 2016). Certainly, the institutions may be willing and able to undertake the necessary steps but may not be aware of the situation. On the other hand, the member of the public can be exposed to the risks but due to lack of knowledge about where they can seek help, they may not take the initiative. In this regards, the action can assist in preventing future health problems. Nevertheless, it is important to note that matters to do with the environment and public health are highly connected with social and political context. Providing the advocacy would at times require knowledge, resilient, and experience. Therefore, I would act as an advocate by joining other like-minded nurses in the existing associations to succeed on the issues related to environmental health.
As it is evident from the above analysis, the environmental health is a significant concept in the contemporary world. In fact, nature has always provided people with food, fresh air, shelter, and pure drinking water. However, due to industrialization and population pressure, the environment has been largely destroyed, leading to the hazarding conditions such as climate change, pollution, and presence of toxic gasses in the air, as well as contaminated water and reduced supply of food. Therefore, an action from the health professionals, community leaders, the government urgencies, and non-government entities is advocated in a bid to take necessary measures to address the issue.