Spirited efforts have been made to draw a demarcating line between public health and environmental health. Experts have developed arguments to stamp this type of thinking. In fact, academicians have gone a step further to develop a curriculum that understands these two fields as different. However, the question still remains: is there any difference between public health and environmental health? This paper seeks to answer the question, trying to show that, in fact, there is a close relationship between these two fields. It attempts to demonstrate that the two fields address the same pertinent concerns but in different ways. Ironically, each expert on the question considers himself doing great things and thus qualifying to be superior.
The paper gives a brief history of the two fields, their philosophies as well as objectives. Health experts have discussed the development of public health from antiquity to the present age of civilization. One notes with concern the primitive comparison of vaccination administration of the 14th century with a modern one, which is supported by the technological process. The areas of concern, in which environmental health experts are involved, have become the subject of discussion. These are concerns for a healthy environment. The modern problem of housing is also taken into consideration as it threatens human health. At the end of the paper, justification is made to weaken the differences in favor of determining the two fields as similar. Hence, the close relationship is established between them. The paper calls upon decision-makers as well as policy makers to define the two disciplines as equal and similar. There is no such difference as academicians would like us to believe.
The Relationship between Public Health and Environmental Health
Public health includes all the measures of prevention and treatment of diseases that affect people, both locally and globally. Public health is not the absence of physical, mental, and psychological inadequacies. It goes beyond the limit to show the unseen possible dangers and threats. The administrations of vaccines, distribution of condoms, and prenatal and postnatal care of women fall under the jurisdiction of public health. This is mainly done through surveillance methods, community development activities, behavioral change initiatives, etc.
The history of public health dates back to ancient times. This is a time when scientists laid considerable emphasis on the proper disposal of human waste that was believed to be the primary cause of diseases. Around 1000 BCE, some Romans developed the practice of using the lesion powder of recovered patients to treat smallpox. Vaccination was not picked up properly until the 1820s when Edward Jenner did a tremendous work for the treatment of smallpox. He did a lot to eliminate the naive thinking that dead bodies were responsible for the disease. This was after people had interfered with corpses and burned parts of the cities in the 14th century (Cromley & McLafferty, 2002).
Since those early times, public health has undergone a remarkable revolution. It has extended its wings to cover not only proper washing of hands but also a good bathroom. In addition, public health has become a course in higher education. Today, epidemiology, occupational health, insurance medicine, public policy, and economic health among many other areas of this discipline can be mentioned (Kelly, 2007). On the other hand, though people usually confuse public health with environmental health, it is possible to discuss them as one entity. All external factors such as biological, physical, and chemical, which affect a person, encompass environmental health. It is closely related to environmental science or environmental protection. It also helps regulate the human behavior that may threaten the well-being of the environment. If human beings behave in such a way that can harm nature, society will be at risk of contact diseases. The contraction of diseases is what environmental health seeks to prevent. It should be noted that environmental health endeavor to prevent social and cultural behavior that cannot threaten the environment, either directly or indirectly (Organization, 2010).
Environmental health includes the issues of land use, development in urban areas, and transport industry growth among other things. This discipline has the three main sub-branches: toxicology, environmental epidemiology, and exposure science. Environmental epidemiology seeks to determine how radiation and chemicals among other things affect human health. Toxicology is a branch of environmental health that deals with close monitoring of how people respond to changes in the environment. Toxicology achieves this by using randomized controlled experiments on different animals. These experiments facilitate the objective conclusions followed by recommendations to all stakeholders as well as policy makers. Exposure science deals with decisions that call for comparison after their effect. These measures include the impositions of quarantine. After this quarantine, experts carry out a study on the results achieved by the directive in the areas of concern (Kessel, 2006).
Environmental health covers the following areas: air quality, disaster preparedness, vector control, solid waste management, occupational health, noise pollution, land use, climate change, food safety, housing, and safe water among others. The important question at this stage is why the two areas of health seem to be discussed in isolation when they address almost the same concerns. The answer can be possible only if experts determine the relationship between them. When the consumption of clean water seems to be the concern of public health, it is crucial to note that a great deal falls under the jurisdiction of environmental health. Human practices that lead to water pollution include poor housing, especially in urban areas. In most of these poor housing structures, where congestion is exceptionally high, sanitation is extremely pathetic. These pathetic conditions show that any available water is not healthy for human and animal consumption. It is the work of environmental health professionals to advise accordingly. On the other hand, it is the work of public health experts to advise the general population on the need to boil water before drinking it if treated water is not available (Schroeder, Steinzor & Center for Progressive Regulation, 2005).
Prenatal and postnatal care falls under the jurisdiction of public health, and it gives advice to women on their overall health in relation to the environment. These programs emphasize the ways, means, as well as the importance of a proper diet. In addition, environmental health experts work so much to ensure the proper control of disease-causing vectors (Beauchamp, 2007).
In conclusion, there is no need to determine public health and environmental health as two different entities. In fact, the practitioners of environmental health range from vet doctors to environmental scientists. All these experts must be licensed before they can officially address the environmental health problems. There is the extremely close relationship between two areas, and the attempt to draw a demarcating line between them is tantamount to the statement that one profession is superior to the other.
Beauchamp, D. E. ( 2007). Public health ethics: Theory, policy, and practice. R. Bayer (Ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.
Cromley, E. K., & McLafferty, S. L. (2002). GIS and public health. New York: Guilford Press.
Kelly, T. (2007). The impact of the WTO: The environment, public health, and sovereignty. Northampton: Edward Elgar.
Kessel, A. ( 2006). Air, the environment, and public health. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Organisation, C. P. (2010). Compilation of water supply and treatment: Containing complete text of Central Public Health and Environmental Engineering Organisation manual on water supply and treatment and National water policy, 2002, [and] National urban Sanitation policy. Delhi: Akalank Publications.
Schroeder, C. H., Steinzor, R., & Center for Progressive Regulation. (2005). A new progressive agenda for public health and the environment: A project of the Center for Progressive Regulation. Durham: Carolina Academic Press.