BlessWorld Foundation International

Affecting the World Through Health
A Global Health Initiative

Environmental Health in Emergencies



Environmental health can be defined as the discipline and practice of preventing human injuries, illnesses and diseases by promoting well-being, recognising and assessing environmental sources of hazardous agents and reducing exposures that may adversely affect human health. It involves a focus on health protection by monitoring, regulating and eliminating physical, chemical, and biological hazards in all parts of the physical environment such as air, water, soil, food, and other environmental media or settings.Environmental Health is that branch of public health that promotes healthy and safe relationships between people and their environment. As one of the major arms of a complete public health system, environmental health involves advocating, implementing and evaluating policies and programs to reduce health hazards in the environment, especially during and after emergencies.

Emergencies and disasters, including natural disasters, chemical or radiological accidents and complex conflicts are inevitable.Hence, it remains the responsibility of governments and international organizations such as World Health Organization (WHO) to pre-empt and effectively manage these disasters when they occur. The risk factors for disease outbreaks following emergencies or disasters result mainly due to environmental risk factors and population displacement. These factors interact to influence the risk of diseases and death in the affected population, they include availability and accessibility of safe water, the level of crowding and sanitary conditions, existing health condition of the population and the availability of healthcare services (Watson, J. T., et. Al. (2007).

In a study that reviewed potential infectious diseases resulting from the after-effects of natural disasters between 2000 and 2011,researchers found that those disasters including floods, tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes, typhoons and tornadoes were associated with infectious diseases such as diarrhea, acute respiratory infections, malaria, leptospirosis, measles, typhoid fever, meningitis, tetanus, dengue fever, viral hepatitis and cutaneous mucormycosis (Kouadio, I. K., et. al (2012).

To completely prevent these emergencies may be impossible because they’re natural, however, handling and managing them can be better. It’s also possible to reduce the probability of their occurrence as well as the resulting consequences and the community’s vulnerabilityif they occur, through vulnerability assessment and other technical means.To reduce the chances of these disasters happening as well as their impact on health and lives, proper planning (emergency preparedness) and actions must be in effect. These plans are usually more cost-effective compared to the costs of dealing with the disasters. Some activities recommended by WHO to reduce the probability and impact of emergencies and disasters include raising awareness, and emergencies, sustainable management of land and infrastructure,effective warning systems, development of relevant national policies, construction of earthquake-resistant buildings, providing water supplies and sanitation systems in earthquake-prone regions and learning from experiences of previous disasters. These activities all require the participation of federal, state and local governments

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