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What is 'Environmental Health'?

A definition of 'Environmental Health' 

'Environmental Health' as a term is not easy to define. If one were to refer to the 'health of the environment' it might even be possible to do so without reference to a particular species i.e. Homo sapiens. Even if one wanted to define the term with special reference to human health - as it is used in this website, this still leaves plenty of room for debate. Two definitions are presented below, the first relating to the effects of the environment on health (this aspect is discussed in much more detail in a separate page) while the second relates to environmental health services. These are followed by a historical account of how the definitions came about. 
Definition 1. 
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.
Definition 2. 
Environmental health services are those services which implement environmental health policies through monitoring and control activities. They also carry out that role by promoting the improvement of environmental parameters and by encouraging the use of environmentally friendly and healthy technologies and behaviours. They also have a leading role in developing and suggesting new policy areas.

How did these definitions come about?

...from the WHO Regional Office for Europe

A four year project was set up to respond to perceived gaps in the management, organisation and delivery of environmental health services (EHS). The first phase of the project, over 1993 and 94, involved a major survey of EHS in 27 different countries. In the middle of the first phase, the World Health Organisation invited the ministers of health and the environment to a meeting in Sofia, Bulgaria. Among the critical outcomes of this meeting were the adoption of a more specific definition of environmental health, and a new definition of environmental health services. 

The collated data were published as a two-volume report, and distributed before the 2nd European Conference on Environment and Health held in Helsinki in 1994. All health and environment ministers were again invited to participate. Almost two days were devoted to discussing and amending the report, before it was finally endorsed. 

The above account was prepared by Bill (William) Sutherland and his help is gratefully acknowledged.