Preventing diseases through promotion of a healthier environment: World Health Organization

How to cite this article:
Shrivastava SR, Shrivastava PS, Ramasamy J. Preventing diseases through promotion of a healthier environment: World Health Organization. Ann Trop Med Public Health 2016;9:364-5


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Shrivastava SR, Shrivastava PS, Ramasamy J. Preventing diseases through promotion of a healthier environment: World Health Organization. Ann Trop Med Public Health [serial online] 2016 [cited 2020 Aug 29];9:364-5. Available from:

Dear Sir,

Globally, it has been acknowledged that by ensuring the presence of a healthy environment where people live/work millions of lives and sufferings can be saved or minimized. [1] In fact, it has been estimated that more than 12.5 million people died due to their exposure to an unhealthy environment worldwide, accounting for 25% of the total global deaths in 2012. [1] In addition, it has been identified that in excess of 20% of the global disease burden in disease adjusted life years has been attributed to an unhealthy environment. [1],[2] Furthermore, it is quite alarming that the maximum proportions of environment-induced diseases are from the low- and middle-income nations of the South-East Asian and Western-Pacific regions. [2]

Furthermore, it has been identified that individuals in the dependent age group (viz., 0-5 years or 50-75 years) are predominantly affected by the environment, with men being more at the risk of the adverse effect of exposure to the environment. [2] Environmental risk factors (such as air-water-soil pollution, climate deterioration, and radiation exposure), have been identified as the potential risk factor in the development of more than 100 diseases and injuries, with noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as stroke, ischemic heart disease, and cancers, contributing to the maximum share of environment-associated mortalities. [2],[3],[4]

Moreover, the trends of the last decade suggest that a significant shift has been observed from infectious, parasitic, and nutritional diseases to NCDs (with regard to environmental fraction as well as the overall magnitude of the disease). [1],[5] However, environmental factors such as indoor/outdoor air pollution, water, sanitation, and hygiene, still remain the key determinants which have brought about a rise in deaths associated with NCDs or with infectious diseases. [2],[5] In fact, on quantification of the environmental fraction, it was found that air pollution alone had accounted for 8.2 million of the NCDs associated deaths. [1]

Acknowledging the fact that a large number of disease and morbidities can be prevented by targeting environmental risk factors, it is high time that with whatever provisions available (like existing policies, strategies, interventions, knowledge), all has to be utilized systematically to reduce their share in the development of diseases. [1],[2] However, the crucial factors such as strong intersectoral coordination, and commitment by the policy makers toward the development of more effective preventive public health strategies and interventions, will play an important role in the promotion of a healthy environment. [2],[4]

These cost-effective interventions comprise of strategies like reducing the use of solid fuels, improving the access to low-carbon energy technologies or safe water or sanitation facilities, encouraging the practice of hand washing, formulating and strictly implementing tobacco smoke-free legislation to minimize exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke, investing on urban transit/planning, and building energy-efficient housing to minimize air pollution. [1],[2],[3],[4],[5] In fact, different cities across the world have started to focus their attention on slum up-gradation, waste recycling, and innovations in the transport facilities, encouragement of walking and cycling, discourage open-air defecation, and even rainwater harvesting to deal with the issue of shortage of drinking water supply. [1],[2]

To conclude, the promotion of a healthy environment can significantly reduce the incidence of premature deaths attributed to different diseases. Thus, the need of the hour is to advocate for the implementation of the customized measures to eventually minimize the associated healthcare costs.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



World Health Organization. An Estimated 12.6 Million Deaths Each Year are Attributable to Unhealthy Environments; 2016. Available from: [Last accessed on 2016 Mar 15].
World Health Organization. Preventing disease through healthy environments – A global assessment of the burden of disease from environmental risks. Geneva: WHO Press; 2016. p. 1-26.
Angkurawaranon C, Lerssrimonkol C, Jakkaew N, Philalai T, Doyle P, Nitsch D. Living in an urban environment and non-communicable disease risk in Thailand: Does timing matter? Health Place 2015;33:37-47.
Reiner RC Jr., Smith DL, Gething PW. Climate change, urbanization and disease: Summer in the city. Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg 2015;109:171-2.
Johnson PT, de Roode JC, Fenton A. Why infectious disease research needs community ecology. Science 2015;349:1259504.

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/1755-6783.190210

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