Human Health and Sustainability:
The Relationship Between Human Health and the Environment
By definition, sustainability aims to promote healthy, viable, and equitable communities.
There is a strong relationship between human health and sustainability. From the air we breathe to the water we drink and use, life here on Earth depends on the natural resources and the environment around us.
Our lives depend on a healthy planet
Every breath we take depends on another life, another species. Many of the global health challenges that we face today, including infectious diseases, malnutrition and noncommunicable diseases are all linked to the decline of biodiversity and ecosystems.
The poorest people on the planet tend to suffer most from the health effects from exposures to environmental hazards like air pollution and impure water. In turn, disease and disability related to polluted environments slows and blocks economic development. Environmental health can be integrated into sustainable development by improving environmental quality for the poorest populations with the greatest burden of environmental diseases, by reducing exposures to air pollution in homes and villages from biomass burning, and providing clean water and sanitation.
Protecting and creating healthy environments is a critical component of sustainable development.
Identifying efforts to address environmental problems that can also provide health benefits. For example, creating environments that encourage biking and walking for transportation reduces greenhouse gas and toxic air pollution emissions (environmental benefit) and increases physical activity (health benefit).
Healthier people mean not only less disease but also reduced greenhouse gas emissions from health care.
A new study published in PNAS found that if citizens in 28 high-income nations like the United States, Germany and Japan actually followed the dietary recommendations of their respective governments, greenhouse gases related to the production of the food they eat would fall by 13% to 25%.
A healthy diet also helps the environment
You are what you eat, as the saying goes, and while good dietary choices boost your own health, they also could improve the health care system and even benefit the planet.
According to research, diets comprising of processed and red meat products have been found to cause ill health and also lead to environmental pollution. Some foods such as high sugar diets including soft fizzy drinks, biscuits and confectioneries tend to have great impact on health but have minimal impact on the planet.
”Continuing to eat the way we do threatens societies, through chronic ill health and degradation of Earth’s climate, ecosystems and water resources. Choosing better, more sustainable diets is one of the main ways people can improve their health and help protect the environment.”
– Michael Clark