Environmental health indicators are used primarily for monitoring aspects of the environment and human health that relate to each other; that is, health-related environmental issues and environment-related health issues, as well as the driving forces and pressures that lead to environmental health issues.
The monitoring of environmental health involves the routine and ongoing collection, analysis, interpretation and reporting of data on aspects of environmental health. Relevant, reliable and timely monitoring data provide the basis for informed decision-making and are essential for actions such as the development and evaluation of effective environmental health policies, programmes and services.
The Ministry of Health has a statutory responsibility to monitor the health of the New Zealand population. As part of this, the Ministry has taken responsibility to ensure that the monitoring of environmental health is carried out. In 2001 the Ministry contracted the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR) to develop a core set of environmental health indicators. This project resulted in the development of environmental health indicators for New Zealand using the Driving forces – Pressures –State – Exposure – Effects – Actions (DPSEEA) framework and associated criteria (Khan 2002; Phillips et al 2001, 2005). (For a description of the development of the environmental indicators framework, see Appendix B.) This project involved an audit of currently available data related to environmental health, and as a result, a number of potential environmental health indicators were identified. Pilot studies were carried out in the Auckland (North Island) and Marlborough (South Island) regions to test the indicators in 2003 (Khan et al 2003).
Based on this work, ESR produced annual environmental health indicator reports for New Zealand for the years 2005, 2006 and 2007. The environmental health issues in 2005 included air quality, water quality and road transport (Khan et al 2005), and expanded to include biosecurity in 2007 (Hambling and Slaney 2007). More detail on the indicators is given in Chapter 2.