Environmental Health Indicators for New Zealand 2008

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Executive Summary

The environment plays an important role in the wellbeing of humans and is a key determinant of health. It provides our basic needs for leading healthy lives, including clean air and fresh water. The term environmental health is used to describe those aspects of health that are related to the environment, through physical, biological, chemical, social and psychosocial factors. The monitoring of environmental health is important for providing key evidence to environmental health practitioners, decision-makers and the community in order to help improve human health.
This descriptive report provides a broad overview of selected key environmental health issues in New Zealand. In this report, indicators cover a number of aspects of environmental health, using the DPSEEA (Driving forces – Pressures – State –Exposure – Effects – Actions) framework, developed by the World Health Organization (WHO). This framework examines the driving forces and pressures on the environment, the state of the environment, exposure to environmental hazards and related health effects. The report examines indicators for these aspects of environmental health, focusing on three broad issues:

  • air quality

  • water quality

  • biosecurity.

Data for this report were sourced from existing data collections, including several agencies outside the health sector, reflecting the wide diversity of agencies involved in promoting the various aspects of environmental health in New Zealand.

The overall purpose of this report is to provide robust and reliable scientific evidence to assist with decision-making and action on environmental health issues in New Zealand. The results will be of interest to the Ministry of Health, the Ministry for the Environment, public health units, District Health Boards (DHBs), the wider health sector, regional councils, local councils and the general public.
It should be noted that the nature of environmental health means that it is not possible to capture all the interdependencies between the environment and human health within a single set of environmental health indicators. It was therefore not possible to explore all environmental health issues, or to analyse the causal relationships between the state of the environment and human health outcomes. It is hoped that this report will encourage interest in environmental health issues and will be built on in future years with further environmental health indicator reports and more in-depth epidemiological studies.

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