Natural Environments as Determinants of health essay
The health and wellbeing of individuals and the community depend significantly on a range of environmental factors. A sustainable and supportive environment is associated with being able to promote good health and general wellbeing within the community. Inadequate access to basic services and needs for standard living negatively affect the health of the population and can lead to adverse health outcomes in the individual. A systematic approach created by the government and health organisations to public health planning divides the environmental factors which influence health into four dimensions. These environmental factors are recognised as the built, social, economic and natural environments. People’s health is contributed by where they live and have access, while the survivability of the individual and their community is affected by whether the environment is ecologically sustainable. The determinants of social health form the collection of the sets of conditions whereby people give birth to children who grow up to live in the same environments. The   social factors determining the health of a community range from financial security, education, housing as well as the health system and built environment.
Natural environment
Natural environments form an integral part of public health. Indeed, the pursuit of healthy people and healthy lives is heralded by extreme commitment towards the attainment of healthy communities (Hamilton, 2004). A government needs to be fully committed to the wellbeing of the community especially in terms of the surrounding environment. The quality of the environment surrounding a community greatly affects the well being of the community living in it. Some of the factors affecting the quality of an environment range from noise, pollution, availability of open and green spaces as well as the quality of air. It has been established through studies that the gap between the poor and the rich in terms of health is still as wide as it was in 1997. The situation has continued much the same way it was several years ago irrespective of the massive investment undertaken in the health sector.
Statistics from different countries such as England indicate that the deprived communities have up to 10 times unlikely to live in environments regarded greenest. Indeed, studies have established that exposure to green space is based on income level especially among European families. It is imperative for a community to live in an environment that is healthy and devoid of various negative aspects that eventually compromise on their health. There are numerous factors that influence on the natural environment in determining the health of the community around it. The global change of climate has massive implications on the health of the community (Kaplan, 1995). The recent past has been characterised with drastic changes in the global environment to the extent that many communities have been negatively affected. For instance, the recent massive floods through heavy rains have compromised the health of the people especially due to consumption of contaminated water.
Additionally, numerous other factors also play an important role in determining the health condition of a natural environment. For instance, the natural environment requires the existence of quality air, clean water, ecological biodiversity as well as food biodiversity. Therefore, it is a crucial requirement for these important components of natural health to be considered carefully when determining community health initiatives (Evans, Wells & Moch, 2003). Certain activities completely erode the quality of the natural environment. Such activities mostly result to environmental degradation. Activities such as deforestation and emission of industrial wastes into waters bodies such as rivers and lakes may greatly impact on the health of the community living in the area. It is also a common occurrence for people living in industrial neighbourhoods to experience extensive environmental degradation such as emission of toxic gases which may have very serious health problems with the communities living in the region. Consequently, it is important that preventive measures are undertaken to prevent environmental degradation.
Social environment
Social sustainability is yet another very important aspect of natural environment that highly impacts on the health of the community. Sustainable social environment brings a sense of security among the members of the community in terms of the sustenance of healthy practices for the people living in an area (Cave, Molyneux & Coutts, 2004). Therefore, there is created a sense of belonging among community members. Sustainability in the social environment creates the feeling of mutual benefit among the community members making it easier for people to appreciate their environment and their community. Sustainability in community health programmes target the acceleration of the process of provision of appropriate amenities such as housing and sanitation within the community. Therefore, building a healthier community incorporates an extent of appropriate provision of requisite facilities and conditions such as employment, healthy lifestyles, education, income and housing as well as cohesion in the community.
Built environment or (physical) and economic
The concept of place is an essential aspect that affects community health in regard to the environment within which people live. It has been established that low living standards and poverty have major influence on the poor health in a community leading to intensified inequalities in health (Woodcraft, Hackett & Caistor-Arendar, 2011). It is therefore true to say that recessionary pressures bring about further health degradation for communities living in abject poverty. There are certain areas of the community with extremely poorly constructed homes and living structures. Some of these dwelling structures do not have the health requirements such as proper sanitation and sewerage facilities. Therefore, the people living in such communities are most likely to have poor health conditions.
Research has established that natural areas near dwelling places of people often promote well-being (Wells, 2011). Similarly, access of natural views by members of the community has been found t o highly enhance cognitive functioning as well as the recovery of people having undergone surgery (Hamilton, 2004). It is also true that the level of activity among people living near parks as well as open spaces is often higher. It is no wonder then that older urban dwellers with open places for walks and exercise live longer. Additionally, there is a tendency of presence of trees in a community to bolster community togetherness as people are brought together to the places where the trees are planted. An important aspect of the concept of place is the use of land. Some important undertakings such as zoning have major influence on the attributes of the community for instance contamination of the soil, traffic density, and safety of the drinking water, pollution of water, air and light (Woodcraft, Hackett & Caistor-Arendar, 2011). A practical example is the increased cases of obesity for people in neighbourhoods with easily available transportation due to reduced activity physically.
Public policy and environmental health factors
Public policy is an important t determinant of the health of a community. Indeed, it has been established that socio-economic models associated with inequalities in health commonly apply while determining the public health practices. For instance, Wells et al. (2010) came up with a framework to identify the range of factors have widespread influence in community and personal health. Through the model, it was established that natural environments greatly influence the possibility of an individual getting sick or even dying prematurely. Indeed, public policy is an important determinant of health of a community. Public policy determines the rightful decisions and procedures to be observed on numerous issues such as construction of dwellings places and installation of the appropriate facilities.
Through public policy, the government can be able to control certain environmental factors that can influence the health of the community (Robert, 1998). For instance, government can impose control on environmental degradation through public policy. Similarly, public policies are   able to restore some sense of sanity in the manner in which people relate with the environment during their production processes. Public policy is important in health as the government can undertake certain measures aimed at offering social health facilities to the community thus improving on the health of the people. Additionally, public policy on health determines the success level of community health facilities already initiated by the government by providing con tenuous monitoring.
From the foregoing, it is evident that natural environments affect the health of a community to a very large extent. In order to fully   understand the extent to which natural environment influences on community health, it is essential to pay attention to numerous factors such as social activities, economic capabilities, built environment, social policies and natural environments affecting the existence of people in a place. The successful combination of the numerous factors of natural environments greatly impacts on the health of a community and its people. Consequently, people are only as healthy as the community in which they live.
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