On SAGE Insight: Building Healthy Community Environments: A Public Health Approach

From Public Health Reports

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Environmental quality has a profound effect on health and the burden of disease. In the United States, the environment-related burden of disease is increasingly dominated by chronic diseases. These days the broad environmental and public health effects of air pollution, the built environment, and global climate change are becoming increasingly evident, and our understanding of the relationship between the environment and human health is evolving. Whereas environmental health once focused on infectious disease prevention, now the environmental health challenges have shifted toward the prevention of chronic disease. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of mortality in the United States. Important risk factors for cardiovascular disease include environmental risks (eg, exposure to air pollution) and local built environment factors that discourage physical activity.Reducing risks of chronic disease will require the reengagement of the public health community in environmental decision making. Healthy decisions about the built environment, including housing, transportation, and energy, require broad collaborative efforts.

This article provides a guide for community leaders to consider the public health effects of decisions about the built environment. It presents a conceptual framework that represents a shift from compartmentalized solutions toward an inclusive systems approach that encourages partnership across disciplines and sectors. The paper highlights practical tools to assist with environmental decision making, such as Health Impact Assessments, environmental public health tracking, and cumulative risk assessment. Authors also identify priorities in research, practice, and education to advance the role of public health in decision making to improve health, such as the Health Impact Assessment, as a core competency for environmental health practitioners

Enabling public health practitioners to promote and support innovative collaborations for a healthy built environment will require changes to public health practice, research, and education. As should be adopted as a core tool and competency for environmental health practitioners. Research should be increasingly quantitative, both in terms of health consequences and benefits and in terms of economic costs and benefits. Informed by these tools, public health officials must be prepared to engage with cross-agency, cross-sector, and community stakeholders from the early stages of problem formulation through evaluation of policy decisions. Looking forward the study encourage cross-disciplinary communication, research, and education that bring the fields of planning, transportation, and energy in closer collaboration with public health to jointly advance the systems approach to today’s environmental challenges.

Abstract

Environmental quality has a profound effect on health and the burden of disease. In the United States, the environment-related burden of disease is increasingly dominated by chronic diseases. At the local level, public health practitioners realize that many policy decisions affecting environmental quality and health transcend the authorities of traditional health department programs. Healthydecisions about the built environment, including housing, transportation, and energy, require broad collaborative efforts. Environmental health professionals have an opportunity to address the shift in public health burden toward chronic diseases and play an important role in the design of healthycommunities by bringing data and tools to decision makers. This article provides a guide for community leaders to consider the public health effects of decisions

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Article details
Building Healthy Community Environments: A Public Health Approach
Kirsten Koehler,  Megan Latshaw,  Thomas Matte, Daniel Kass, Howard
Frumkin, Mary Fox, Benjamin F. Hobbs,  Marsha Wills-Karp,  Thomas A.
Burke,
First Published November 14, 2018 Research Article 
DOI: 10.1177/0033354918798809
Public Health Reports
     
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