Environmental Health

"Many communities lack access to nutritious, affordable food; are denied safe places to walk and exercise; or live near polluting factories. The health risks for these families are greater. We support research and action to help ensure healthy environments for all."
--APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin

Environmental health is the branch of public health that: focuses on the relationships between people and their environment; promotes human health and well-being; and fosters healthy and safe communities. Environmental health is a key part of any comprehensive public health system. The field works to advance policies and programs to reduce chemical and other environmental exposures in air, water, soil and food to protect people and provide communities with healthier environments.

The pillars of APHA's environmental health work: 
Healthy Community Design
Natural Environment
Environmental Health Systems
Building Partnerships

APHA advances the field of environmental health by:
Improving population health through healthy living.
Promoting health equity and environmental justice across places.
Providing a voice for environmental health practitioners.

We work with partners and members, including the Environment Section of APHA, to make sure all communities, no matter where they live, have access to healthy environments. We also emphasize the importance of environmental justice and equity. Environmental justice is the fair and equitable treatment and the meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin or income with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies. Unfortunately, this is not always the case as vulnerable populations and communities experience more than their fair share of environmental impacts.

Major emergencies show how our vulnerable populations have been exposed to environmental health issues. The Zika virus outbreak, Flint water crisis and Hurricane Katrina are three examples. Pregnant women and their fetuses are most vulnerable to Zika. Those living in under resourced neighborhoods were most exposed to contaminated drinking water in Flint. And many low-income households who lived in under resourced neighborhoods have been unable to recover several years after Hurricane Katrina.

We bring national attention to environmental health issues and promote sound policy that protects the health, well-being and quality of life of the public in all communities across the country. To support environmental health work, we develop targeted educational messages that highlight the connection between healthy communities and healthy people.

Science-based policies and practices developed by APHA members are the foundation for our work on these focus areas:

For more information about our environmental health work, contact Surili Patel

Environmental Health Toolkit

tree with caption Environmental Health Toolkit

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