A healthy environment depends on multiple factors, some of which have nothing to do with the outdoor environment, as many may think. Some broad factors could be Physical or Natural environments, Built environments, and Social environments like those at home, school, or colleges in the community. These factors vary in importance between different communities because of differences in numerous social constructs like the current services put in place by the government of other ruling bodies, local facilities, priorities and needs of the different communities, and because communities are in a transient state that change over time.
While a healthy environment largely depends on the collective effort of each individual in a community, a properly functioning government and other institutes play an equally important role. Public health interventions are designed to reduce the risk of ill-health and promote feelings of well-being in a community that considers many social and environmental factors to create a healthy and prospering community.
Let us explore some characteristics to ensure a healthy living environment.
Characteristics of a Healthy Environment
A healthy environment is a safe, clean and peaceful one. People living in a healthy environment feel safe, comfortable and happy. It does not only provide them with opportunities to live healthily but also helps them develop their abilities as well as mental capabilities.
There are certain characteristics that help create a healthy environment that is conducive for people living in it. Let us explore them.
1. Air quality
Air pollution is one of the most significant environmental risks to health. Ambient (outdoor air pollution) in cities and rural areas was estimated to cause 4.2 million premature deaths worldwide in 2016. Addressing all the risk factors for non-communicable diseases, including air pollution, is key to protecting public health. While it is easy to think that air quality is well beyond the control of an individual, one can do seemingly small things that can make a significant impact in everyday life. By reducing air pollution levels, countries can reduce the burden of disease from stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma, bronchitis, etc.
2. Water quality
Maintaining water quality doesn’t only mean the availability odf healthy drinking water but also regular maintenance of community ponds, lakes, groundwater, sewage, and other water sources. The widespread problem of water pollution is jeopardizing our health. Diseases spread by unsafe water include cholera, giardia, and typhoid. Healthy ecosystems rely on a complex web of animals, plants, bacteria, and fungi, all of which interact, directly or indirectly, with each other to develop a thriving and prosperous environment. Harm to any of these organisms can create a chain effect, imperiling entire aquatic environments. Regular maintenance of water sources in and around the community reduces water-borne diseases and healthy aquatic systems. This leads to a safer and healthier environment for people and wildlife alike.
3. Soil quality
Soil quality is the capacity of each soil to function within its natural or managed ecosystems, sustain productivity, enhance water and air quality, support human and animal health and habitation. Direct effects of soil quality on water quality are attributed to inherent soil characteristics, e.g., parent material, texture, and structure. Land use and soil management also affect water quality through soil quality. Humans derive multiple benefits from healthy soil. Some include food production, water quality, and flood control, which have value economically or improved quality of life. The most direct economic benefits of soil relate to structural support for buildings, roads, and parking. Landscaping, gardening, and parklands may also be valued economically, among other social and environmental benefits.
While everyone strives for a clean and healthy environment, not many make an active effort to do their part. A clean environment is one thing that can completely be in hands of each individual. A few things we can do ourselves to maintain a cleaner and a pollution-free environment are
- Using public transport: Almost every type of vehicle runs on fuel, releasing toxic chemicals and gases into the environment. The use of public transport cuts down the number of vehicles on the road, leading to air pollution.
- Reduction of chemical products at homes: It is advised to reduce the number of cleaners and other products that contain a high amount of chemicals. Chemical products can find their way in drains polluting the underground water table. There are many ‘green’ cleaning products available in the market that are environmentally friendly and conventional cleaners.
- Reducing the usage of electrical appliances: Electrical appliances use a lot of energy. One of the best ways to conserve electricity is switching off all the lights and appliances when not in use. You can wash your clothes in a washing machine using warm and cold water instead of hot water. Reducing the number of air conditioners can mitigate global warming and carbon dioxide emissions.
A cleaner environment is truly a greener environment. An abundance of trees, parks, gardens, etc., means cleaner air quality and broader opportunities for flora and fauna to flourish. Trees purify toxic gases and give out more oxygen. Parks, open spaces, and trails play a key role in preserving water and air quality, reducing congestion, and protecting wildlife. Through the provision of parks, open spaces, and a protected natural environment, recreation contributes to the environmental health of our community. Not to mention, green parks and trees have a soothing recreational effect on people. The happiness of the people in the community always positively affects the environment.
People depend on biodiversity in their daily lives in ways that are not always apparent or appreciated. The environment’s health depends on the community’s biodiversity to a large extent. Biodiversity supports human and societal needs, including food and nutrition security, energy, the development of medicines and pharmaceuticals, and freshwater, which together underpin good health. It also supports economic opportunities and leisure activities that contribute to the overall well-being of people and the environment. Its loss can have significant direct human health impacts if ecosystem services are no longer adequate to meet social needs. Indirectly, changes in ecosystem services affect livelihoods, income, local migration, etc. Diverse biodiversity can act as natural buffers to keep natural calamities like floods, landslides, etc. This is very important because such calamities bring about mass destructions, leading to massive environmental and social turmoil.
Every individual of every community is an essential part of the environment. A healthy environment reqires the collected effort of every single person. No matter how little you think your contribution is, knowingly or unknowingly you are making your impact on the environment, positive or negative. Lets make an active effort together to create a safe and a healthy environment for all.
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