Humans grow and develop a particular environment and are always interacting with that environment. This environment in which humans live provide them with basic existence needs i.e. air, food and water. This interaction and the environment in which they live in affect the quality of their life and years of healthy life expectancy (Eckelman & Sherman, 2016). Thus, the environment has an impact on the health of a person.Maintaining environmental health is very essential to maintain the health of a people in a particular region. Thus, the government of all nations and other statutory bodies at national and global level are striving to create a healthy environment for people to live, grow and develop. The presented report gives an overview of the water as factor affecting environmental and public health in the region of Australia and importance of managing these issues for sustainable development of the environment and the people living in it.
According to World Health Organization (WHO), environment in relation to health can be defined as all the physical, biological and chemical factors external to a person and all the related behaviors. Maintaining a good health of the environment is key to increase the quality of healthy life of the people living in it. Environmental health thus involves the prevention and control of diseases, injuries and health disparities caused due to the various environmental factors and the interactions between them and people. WHO estimates that every year about 13 million deaths are caused due to unhealthy environment and 24 percent of the global diseases and 23 of deaths occur due to environmental elements? Thus, the effect on environmentalfactors on public health is a global concern. These environmental elements include factors like air and water pollution, exposure to hazardous and toxic substances in soil, food, climate change, natural disasters, occupational hazards, etc. (Warren, Walker & Nathan, 2019). Poor environmental health quality affects the people whose health is already at risk.Thus, it is essential to address environmental, social and other related factors that pose a risk of diseases. Some of the environmental factors that have an impact on public health are as follows:
Occupational hazards- people are also exposed to harmful and toxic substances when engaged in their operations, like being exposed to harmful chemicals when working in a paint or firework factory, being exposed to extreme heat, working in a inadequately sanitized condition, etc. (World Health Organization). These hazards impact public health, thus maintaining healthy occupational environmental is also important.
Along with the environmental factors, the social, economic and political factors also have influence on public health to some extent. It is important for the government bodies to focus on the population economic and social growth factors and provide good quality of life to its population which in turn improves the public health (World Health Organization).
Australia has made major progress in environmental health in recent years specially through better sanitation and clean drinking water (Australian Government Institute of Health and Welfare, 2018). Consumption of safe drinking water is a basic need and important for human existence. However, nowadays due to increased industrialization and globalization good water quality has become a global concern. Similarly, in Australia as well increased water pollution is posing a challenge to provide safe and contamination water free to public and maintain the environmental health.
Most of the people in Australia have access to clean and adequate drinking water. However, factors like increasing population, industries, recreational activities all put a pressure on the natural water resources and environment of Australia. People living in the remote and less developed areas are specially affected by inadequate and contaminated water supply. It is essential to maintain the water quality all over the region. Water quality consists of the chemical, biological and physical properties of water. This includes the colour, taste, odour, salinity, clarity, microbial contaminants, chemical residues, etc. The factors that cause the water quality to deplete needs to controlled. The acids, chemicals, heavy metals released in the waterways from the industries cause illness which may stay for generations in the human race and also have an adverse effect on aquatic ecosystem. Blackwater events are often observed in Australia.Blackwater events are a natural event when plant litter and debris on lowlands are washed in the water systems mostly during floods (Australian Government Institute of Health and Welfare, 2018).
This buildup of organic black substances in the water makes its unfit for use and depletes the oxygen level in it. Environmental calamity of bush fire is also often witnessed in the forest areas of Australia (Australian Government Department of Health). The harmful sediments created after the burning of vegetative cover in a bush fire event is mixed with the soil. These sediments and pollutants are then washed away in the water bodies during heavy rains. Water used for drinking, in agricultural activities, and aquatic ecosystem is adversely affected by this surface-water runoff after a bushfire. Microbial contaminants of polluted water such as protozoa, bacteria, viruses, algae affect the health of humans and animals greatly. Consumption of such microbial polluted waters have causes long term chronic diseases. Salinity is the level of salt in water, and is a natural feature of landscape of Australia. Activities such as poor irrigation and land management practices, vegetation clearance increases the salinity levels of soil which in turns increases the salinity of water when such salts are washed away in the water bodies. The health effects of such poor water quality include diseases of skin, eye irritation, respiratory diseases at times due to buildup of harmful metals in the respiratory tract, gastroenteritis infectious like giardiasis, typhoid, cryptosporidiosis, and chronic condition like hepatitis, etc.
Thus, the water resources of Australia need ongoing treatment to ensure healthy water availability and maintaining quality of water for good environmental and public health. It is essential to be aware of the environmental conditions and human activities that affects the water quality for effective water management. The government of Australia takes a leadership role in ensuring to provide contamination-free and safe water to its population. Strategies to prevent water pollution addresswater issues and for sustainable development are continuously developed by the local, state, territory governments and councils. The regional committees like the municipal corporations, natural resource management organizations and the Australian Health Protection Committee have a key role to play in these strategies. Example of one such strategy actively implemented in Australia for this purpose is the National Water Quality Management Strategy (Crowe et.al., 2019). The local bodies looking after the administration of a region ensures regular treatment of the water available for consumption.
These treatments should follow the mentioned protocol and the authorities should ensure that is completely free from all chemical, organic and microbial contaminants. Australian Health Protection Committee implements the National Environmental Health Strategy, and in consultation with key stakeholders develop and research for information and resources on environmental health (Australian Government Department of Health). The Australian Drinking Water Guidelines is a framework developed by the health ministry of Australia. This framework provides guidelines for good management of water supplies specially in the interior and remote areas of the region and also assure safety at the point of use. Early detection of water problems, they mitigation, improved reporting and sampling techniques have positive impact on water quality of a region. The government also collaborates with global organizations like the World Health Organization(WHO) for ensuring the reach of safe drinking water to all its population and also acts on the guidelines and strategies set by such international committees.
Also, along with maintaining good quality of water and environmental health it is recommended and essential for the local, state and territory government in collaborations with the national resource management bodies to develop and implement strategies to also address concern of water shortage and water supply. Rain water harvesting strategies should be actively implemented specially in remote regions to recycle the rain water and boost the drinking water supplies in such regions. The government should educate and collaborate with the indigenous population in these areas for effective and sustainable water management (Morton, Pencheon& Squires, 2017).
Environment sustains human life and provides basic necessities for its existence like air, food and water. This environment can also be a cause for many health disparities and diseases and any major alternation in the natural factors of this environment can pose a risk to human life. Thus, sustainable management of natural environment is essential as many things in the environment affect public health. A healthy environment increases the life expectancy of human whereas a non-healthy environment poses risk of health disparities to human and can decrease their life expectancy. Positive impacts on the health of people can be achieved by improving the environmental health. The life expectancy can be increased significantly through provision of safe drinking water and food, adequate sanitation facilities, vaccinations and addressing other environmental health issues effectively in Australia. The local, state and territory government should focus on monitoring, investigation, surveillance and legislation of its population’s health.
Australian Government Department of Health (n. d). Environmental health and what are we doing about it? Retrieved from: http://www.health.gov.au
Australian Government Institute of Health and Welfare (2018). Impact of the natural environment on health. Retrieved from: http://www.aihw.gov.au
Crowe, T.D. et.al. (2019). Australian policies on water management and climate change: are they supporting the sustainable development goals and improved health and well-being? Global Health, 15(68), 123-127.
Eckelman, M.J. & Sherman, J. (2016). Environmental impacts of the US healthcare system and effects on public health. Plos one Journal, 11(6), 34-41.
Morton, S., Pencheon, D.& Squires, N. (2017). Sustainable development goals and their implementation: a national global framework for health development and equity needs a system approach at every level. British Medical Bulletin, 124(1), 81-90.
Warren, R., Walker, B. & Nathan, V.R. (2019). Environmental factors influencing public health and medicine: policy implications. 94(4), 93-185.
World Health Organization (n. d). Public health, environmental and social determinants of health (PHE).
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