Most people would acknowledge that health and the environment are correlated. The majority of studies on health and environment suggest the existence of not only a significant but high degree of correlation between the two variables. Studies that explore the relationship between health and environment treat both attributes as variables as both can vary. It is easier to conceive that if environmental factors are varied then health would be affected. However, how the health of members can affect the environment is also an interesting aspect to explore.
Defining the environment
The most general meaning of environment is the perceived and even the non-perceived surrounding. What is perceivable in the surroundings through sense organs and intellect, matter or energy, is the perceived environment. A baby is not aware of several objects in the surrounding, the awareness of surroundings increases as the baby grows and communicates with other members of the surrounding. A member of an environment gathers more awareness about the environment through self-learning and learning from other members. A member of an environment also contributes to increasing awareness of other members towards the environment by sharing their own knowledge and experiences.
Different types of environment
When we think of the relation between health and the environment most of us would first think of the natural environment. However, the environment has been classified under different types, which are:
- Interior and exterior environment
- Open and closed environment
- Natural environment
- Planetary environment
- Cosmic environment
- Man-made environment
- Local and global environment
- Socio cultural, political and legal environment
- Technology, Infrastructure, facilities and products environment
There definitely exists a relationship between health and the natural environment, yet other types of environment can also impact health. For example, a person residing in a more facilitated environment can enjoy better health considering the natural environment is not polluted or contaminated.
Constituents of different environments
The different environment constituents can be the animate and inanimate objects and matter and energy formations that the environment is composed of.
Forces in an environment are the constituents in the environment that impact the quality of the environment type. The forces in an environment can be controllable or uncontrollable by the actors. Different environment forces do not act in cohorts, at any particular time there can be a perceived unmanageable discord in the total environment.
Actors in the environment are inanimate and animate constituents of the environment that can affect, create, maintain or change the environment. Members of the environment are the animate objects, the people, and living beings, experiencing the environment. Conscious members of the environment can also become actors in the environment.
Individuals and groups can consciously strive to balance between different environment forces and achieve harmony for individual, group, or overall wellbeing.
The most general meaning of an individual’s environment is the surround in which the individual lives. Yet surrounding circles can have no limits, the radius can grow larger and larger. Actors of the environment who attempt to protect or enhance environmental well-being several times define the periphery of the surround. Hence the surround can be limited to house periphery, campus periphery, town/village periphery, state periphery, country/ regional periphery, and likewise. Since it is difficult to control a large periphery, whenever and wherever control action is called upon, the responsible actors of the environment work with well-defined boundaries. Hence to contain or control any desired or undesired occurrence actors can act by sealing boundaries, opening boundaries, permitting partial or complete transmissibility between boundaries, and other suited action depending upon the situation and case.
Defining the environment peripheries
The most common hypothesis is that a good environment positively affects health and a bad environment negatively affects health. Yet we may not always be fortunate enough to accept a straight hypothesis as the one stated. For example, children who grow up in contaminated surroundings like slums develop a microbiota system that offers better resistance to pathogens. The microbiota system in humans develops by the age of five. Children living in harsher surroundings but with better coping mechanisms find it easier to adjust to different environments. On the other hand, children who have been raised in healthier natural environments may find it difficult to resist infections from newer pathogens of a contaminated environment. Does that imply that actors in the environment should give up making efforts to create a healthier natural environment for more and more people? This cannot be an acceptable situation when viewed from the perspectives of interest of a larger society or our responsibility towards nature. Hence responsible actors may advocate for natural environment protection and conservation and accessibility to vaccination programs for all to develop the desired resistance towards pathogens.
Adaptation vs. Migration vs. Change
When members of an environment who experience the particular environment undergo change within themselves to cope better in the environment then the process is called adaptation. On the other hand when members of an environment shift to other environments to evade the negative impacts of the present environment then the process is called a migration process. When members of any particular environment take up the responsibility of actors or seek assistance from the actors to change aspects of the environment that are acting against the wellbeing of the members, then such a process is a change process.
Effects of health on environment
So far we discussed the effect of the environment on the health of animate members of any environment. Yet there is also the aspect of the health of the members affecting the environment. The health of members can also affect the environment in a significant manner. The condition of some members can have more impact on the environment than others. For example, in a home, if children fall sick then elders are in a better situation to control the environment, but if the guardian elders fall sick then children are not well equipped to safeguard themselves or to control the environment.
The environment comprises of the interplay of several forces that may not always act in cohorts. Individuals impact their environment and are affected by the surround they live in. Responsible actors of the environment endeavor for harmony and the greatest good of all.