Environmental Health Indicators for New Zealand 2008

Definition of environmental health

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Definition of environmental health

Environmental health covers those general aspects of health that are related to the environment. The WHO developed the following draft definition of environmental health at a meeting in Sofia, Bulgaria, in 1993:

‘Environmental health comprises those aspects of human health, including quality of life, that are determined by physical, chemical, biological, social and psychosocial factors in the environment.

It also refers to the theory and practice of assessing, correcting, controlling and preventing those factors in the environment that can potentially affect adversely the health of present and future generations’ (WHO, 1993).
Environmental health covers a broad range of topics, including air pollution, water quality, noise, sanitation, housing, radiation, waste management, food safety, traffic accidents, vector-borne disease, occupational health and chemical emergencies (Briggs 1999).
More recently, environmental health has also been viewed from a more holistic ecosystems approach. Ecosystems play vital roles as life-support systems, providing essential services such as food production, water supply, nutrient recycling and waste treatment (Matsumura 1996; Parkes and Weinstein 2004). Disruptions to ecosystems and ecosystem services can have major effects (both directly and indirectly) on human health and wellbeing. This highlights the importance of interpreting specific environmental health issues in the wider context of ecosystem health.

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