Population Health and the Environment

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Population Health and the Environment

The environment affects human population in various ways. Numerous researchers have extensively studied the relationship between the environment and human health. Thus, they have proven that the environment normally contains various risks that affect the human population and its health (Nelson & Williams, 2013). These effects may be experienced either directly by exposing the population to harmful agents or indirectly by interfering with life-sustaining ecosystems. According to various researches, the contribution of environmental factors to the increase of disease and death rates cannot be accurately determined. However, according to the World Health Organization, about 13 million deaths per year are caused by environmental health factors (Blaikie, Cannon, Davis, & Wisner, 2014). Thus, the findings based on the effects of the environmental influence on human health will be divided into four parts, namely the principal methods used in the environment health research, the evaluation of the level of environmental health hazards, and health risks, which are found in the natural environment, as well as the role of US government agencies in managing infectious diseases.

Principal Methods Used in the Study of Environmental Health

  • Epidemiology

Epidemiology is a quantitative tool that primarily emphasizes the health impact in the community. This tool is also applied while analyzing the relationship between conservational risks and health effects. Specific epidemiology methods are used in the study of various hazards such as social factors, infectious diseases, and dangerous chemicals that affect human population's health. According to Nelson and Williams (2013), epidemiological methods make the use of real-life patterns of exposures and infections to evaluate the link between the accidental, occupational, health impact, and ambient exposures.

It is believed that control and cohort research exist under this method. The latter studies focus on the identification of individuals who have been exposed to certain infections. With this approach, researchers can trace the health outcomes, associated with some diseases (Bowling, 2014). On the other hand, case-control research considers the subjects that have developed a particular health outcome, for example, cardiovascular diseases. Researchers must put more efforts to distinguish the control and the case groups by the use of numerous factors such as education, gender, age, body weight, and reproductive history.

Equally, the concern of researchers regarding these approaches is to identify a personal history of exposure to a particular infection through questionnaires, interviews, and the testing of biological samples. Therefore, it is safe to state that epidemiology methods create awareness about some particular disease through research findings. In addition, through this process, it is easier to understand how an individual's exposure to environmental risks affects the health status of the entire community.

  • Risk Management

Risk management involves several actions that are used to mitigate or prevent the risks to the population%uFFFDs health (Bowling, 2014). Decisions concerning risk management are made as the result of an official risk assessment. In this context, the decisions made depend on the individual knowledge of environmental health risks and measures, taken to prevent them.

  • Risk Assessment

Risk assessment is an applied science method that involves a set of procedures, used to integrate and assess scientific information based on the exposure to environmental health hazards. The purpose of this method is to create awareness to the community concerning the environmental factors, such as pollution, that may be a threat to people%uFFFDs health status.

Risk Communication

This is the last principle method of science and research, used in the study of environmental health. This technique allows the community to share details about the health hazards of an environment, for example, harmful waste sites. Moreover, the method considers informed consent, where the researchers are made aware of the importance and the perils of conducting a study (Lundgren & McMakin, 2013). At the same time, risk communication allows society to be involved in the policy-making and epidemiologic studies. As such, the participation of communities in risk communication creates awareness on certain infectious diseases and the environmental risks, related to them. In addition, the involvement in this study helps discover the necessary precautions that can be used to minimize environmental hazards.

Ways, Used by Scientists and Researchers to Evaluate the Level of Environmental Hazards on Population Health

  • Utilization of Observational Data

While analyzing the occurrence of a disease and health in the human population, researchers and scientists are prohibited from using experimental methods. Thus, the analysis is attributed to the ethical issues related to some innovative techniques such as potential barriers to research participants (Bowling, 2014). Observational science takes advantage of the circumstances that occur naturally to examine the existence of a disease. Based on the infection, observational data can help researchers identify the risk level environmental hazards may pose to society.

  • Characteristics Study Design

Characteristics study design include case-control, cohort, cross-sectional, and ecologic models. These models are used by participants to demonstrate the strength of environmental health risks in the human population (Blaikie et al., 2014). Researchers also use these designs in assessing the perils, associated with environmental health.

  • Descriptive and Analytical Studies

This approach is useful because it detects the occurrence of a disease in a population based on person, place, and time variables. Demographic attributes, such as age, gender, and ethnicity, are some of the variables, found in descriptive studies (Bowling, 2014). Place variables are useful when indicating the location. Scientists and researchers use descriptive research to delineate the predominance of environmental health risks in a population. In particular, researchers and scientists can determine the common exposure of a community to an environmental hazard through clustering. In contrast, analytical studies evaluate the association between the conditions of health and exposure. This method also involves the study of individual contacts with potential air pollution, carcinogens, and toxic materials (Blaikie et al., 2014). For that reason, the result of these studies is preserved since it is required to indicate the risk level that a community may experience due to various environmental risks.

Health Risks Found in the Natural Environment

The environment consists of physical, chemical, and biological factors associated with individual behaviors. The natural environment affects the population in many ways. Similarly, environmental hazards have a direct and indirect influence on the human health. Thus, the direct impact of environmental risks is observed when the population is exposed to environmental agents (Blaikie et al., 2014). However, the indirect influence emerges when life-sustaining ecologies are disrupted. Nonetheless, the rapid population growth leads to the constant environmental deprivation.

Research has proved that industrialization, the intensification of agriculture, and the increased use of energy are the driving factors of environmental health problems. These factors result in poor sanitation, the absence of adequate health facilities, and limited access to clean drinking water due to excessive pollution (Nelson & Williams, 2013). The consequence of such a pollution is an upsurge in diseases such as cholera, malaria, and asthma. One of the environmental risks found in the natural environment is the quality of outdoor air. Thus, the poor quality of air results in cancer, a long-term destruction of the cardiovascular and respiratory system, and premature death (Blaikie et al., 2014). For that reason, minimizing or preventing air pollution is an essential step in creating a healthy environment.

The other environmental risk found in the natural environment is ground and surface water. Ideally, ground or surface water also presupposes its use for recreational and drinking purposes. Essentially, any contamination either by chemicals or infectious agents can result in mild or severe illness (Nelson & Williams, 2013). Due to water pollution, individuals can be exposed to water-borne diseases such as cholera, typhoid, and dysentery. Consequently, it is imperative to protect the sources of water from contamination for the good of environmental health. Another environmental peril is the habitat. According to the study of Nelson and Williams (2013), many people spend their lives at school, work, or home. Since these places are quite populous, people can easily acquire some infections (Nelson & Williams, 2013) since they are exposed to inadequate sanitation and they lack clean air. These hazards easily affect the safety and health of the entire population. As a result, people may be prone to contracting airborne diseases such as Tuberculosis and flu. For preventive purposes, it is crucial to maintain healthy communities and homes.

The Role of the US Government Agencies in Managing the Incidence of Infectious Diseases

One of the roles of the US government agencies in managing infectious diseases is the evaluation of the data related to infections. After a thorough assessment, these agencies are mandated to offer advice on the investigations of a disease, its diagnosis, prevention, and treatment. Agencies also consult one another on the response that the USA needs to take in the matters of disease control, prevention, and treatment (Nelson & Williams, 2013). Moreover, administrative agencies perform researches on pathogens, their effects, and the factors, influencing their development. Various US agencies also integrate epidemiology and laboratory science to encourage the practice of public health. In addition, organizations maximize the communication of the public-well-being information concerning emerging hazards. They also enact prevention policies that the country should implement.

Further, for the US agencies to succeed in controlling an epidemic in the country, three issues must occur. They include accessing reliable data on the disease, evaluating the data, and assisting the affected state to implement preventive and control measures (Nelson & Williams, 2013). However, an environmental hazard that presents a significant challenge for these agencies in preventing a severe health risk to the population is the hazardous wastes and toxic substances (Blaikie et al., 2014). These elements are difficult to control due to the industrialization in the USA. Therefore, they are the significant risk factor to the environmental health, occurring on a regular basis.

Conclusion

Overall, the major environmental factors that affect human population include the exposure to harmful agents and interference with life-sustaining ecosystems. Harmful agents include poor sanitation, polluted air, and contaminated water. They lead to major risks such as waterborne and airborne infections. In extreme conditions, environmental factors may lead to death. From the study, one can see that many people across the world die due to environmental factors. The principal methods that are used in the study of environmental health are epidemiology, risk evaluation, risk management, and risk communication. In addition, scientists and researchers evaluate the level of environmental hazards on population health through the utilization of observation data, characteristics study design, and descriptive and analytical studies. Lastly, the role of the US government in managing infectious diseases include establishing prevention and treatment policies as well as evaluating the data related to diseases.

References

Blaikie, P., Cannon, T., Davis, I., & Wisner, B. (2014). At risk: Natural hazards, people's vulnerability, and disasters (2nd ed.). Abingdon, UK: Routledge.

Bowling, A. (2014). Research methods in health: Investigating health and health services (4th ed.). Maidenhead, UK: McGraw-Hill Education.

Lundgren, R. E., & McMakin, A. H. (2013). Risk communication: A handbook for communicating environmental, safety, and health risks (5th ed.). New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.

Nelson, K. E., & Williams, C. (2013). Infectious disease epidemiology: Theory and practice (3d ed.). Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Publishers.

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