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Rebuilding the Unity of Health and the Environment: A New Vision of Environmental Health for the 21st Century.


Institute of Medicine (US).


Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2001.
The National Academies Collection: Reports funded by National Institutes of Health.


The goals of environmental health include the following: (1) establishing and maintaining a healthy livable environment for humans and other species and (2) promoting an environment that improves well-being and a high quality of mental health. In addition, this environment must be sustained into the future and be a setting in which population growth, manufacturing, and agriculture can thrive. We all recognize that in recent decades, many important achievements have helped create a cleaner, healthier environment, yet our national needs in environmental health are not being fully met. The infrastructure for linking environmental health and public health is not working as well as it should. Moreover, environmental health at the local level has become narrowly focused, very much defined around regulations and the attendant regulatory debates. A key to success in the future is to define broader environmental health goals that call for better linking of environmental and public health. There is no doubt that environmentally related diseases will continue to pose problems in the future. The amount of chemical and biological waste generated by human activity will increase, the total environmental burden will grow due to population growth and industrial development, and pollution will continue to be generated in all parts of the world. Failure to understand and manage this environmental challenge could have truly disastrous consequences. The charge to the workshop speakers and participants is that environmental health in the future requires an expanded vision, which is the focus of this workshop, specifically: What are the approaches that will maintain and extend environmental health beyond the traditional regulatory approach? What are the approaches for building environments that actively improve human health? How can we obtain the involvement and leadership of citizens, business leaders, public health workers, and others in addressing environmental health at the local community level? What new mechanisms are needed to realize the breadth of environmental health? How can we raise awareness and promote community-based environmental health? How can we build educational approaches, federal and state programs, and economic incentives to enhance environmental health? How can we encourage university scientists to participate in developing effective environmental regulations? How can we promote environmental health that is both sensitive to the needs of local communities and flexible enough to allow a range of approaches? Finally, how can we integrate environmental health with pressing economic development and social issues and changes in the global environment?

Copyright © 2001, National Academy of Sciences.

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