Environmental Health Engineering Theory and Practice/Geographic Scope

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Geographic Scope

The Earth seen from Apollo 17
The Earth seen from Apollo 17

Environmental health engineering begins at the tip of your nose and extends all the way to the upper reaches of the atmosphere, to the depths of the ocean, and into the crust of the Earth. The geographic scope of environmental health engineering - the boundaries placed upon a particular exposure assessment - can stop at the door of your home, at the grazing pasture uphill of your drinking water well, or at your neighborhood salad bar. Or the boundaries could begin hundreds of kilometers upwind where slash and burn agriculture predominates, with the manufacturing of single use plastic bottles half-way around the world, or as part of a global food network where current international standards for labelling fail to protect you and your family from unwanted allergens in your ready-to-eat food.

United Nations World Health Organization (WHO)

The United Nations World Health Organization (UN WHO) defines three determinants of health, including: 1) a person's individual characteristics and behaviors; 2) the social and economic environment around a person; and 3) the physical environment. The physical environment includes: safe water; clean air; healthy workplaces; safe houses, communities and roads. The physical environment also includes employment and working conditions, because people who are employed are healthier, in particular if they have a level of control over their working conditions.

United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US CDC) includes physical determinants as part of the broader category of social determinants of health. For example, in Healthy People 2020 the SODH are defined as, "conditions in the environments in which people live, learn, work, play, worship, and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks." The conditions include the physical environment, and are referred to as placed-based risks (e.g., in neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, and churches or other public gathering places). The CDC links the patterns of social engagement and the second of security and well-being to the physical place, and [research from Harvard University] has shown that an individual's health may depend as much on zip code - or the physical location of an individual's home - as genetic code - the composition of an individual's DNA.

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