This special supplement of Public Health Reports, “Healthy People in a Healthy Environment,” represents an addendum to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's 2009 National Environmental Public Health Conference of the same name, which drew a national audience of 1,300 to Atlanta, Georgia, from October 26–28, 2009. The meeting promoted the nation's environmental health scientific and practice capacity by enhancing the expertise of environmental health professionals, including public health and health-care professionals, academic researchers, representatives from communities and organizations, and advocacy and business groups. The conference aimed to develop and encourage innovative strategies for addressing existing and emerging issues impacting environmental public health, the discipline that focuses on the interrelationships between people and their environment, promotes human health and well-being, and fosters a safe and healthful environment.
The conference comprised workshops, presentations, posters, roundtables, and plenary sessions that accomplished the following:
- Reviewed issues and policies related to all-hazards preparedness, including anticipating, responding to, mitigating, and recovering from chemical, radiologic, and biological emergencies, natural disasters, and outbreaks.
- Emphasized biomonitoring, exposure pathways, health effects, and interventions, and provided an opportunity to discuss specific hazardous substances, as well as emerging toxic exposures.
- Highlighted research and programs related to healthy communities, schools, and housing; indoor and outdoor air quality; land reuse and revitalization; and the built environment.
- Provided learning opportunities about new and emerging tools for use in science, research, and programs. Sessions focused on informatics, tracking, surveillance, geospatial research, laboratory science, modeling, workforce development, capacity building, and program implementation and evaluation.
- Provided a forum for discussing public health's engagement with a variety of sustainability initiatives. These initiatives included efforts to mitigate or adapt to climate change, green health-care and energy initiatives, and other sustainability programs.
- Promoted discussion about how changes in the earth's ecosystems affect population health and included sessions on the interrelationships between human and animal health and the environmental public health systems that monitor, control, or prevent adverse health outcomes.
Those readers who would like to explore the conference proceedings or view plenary presentations may access them at http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/conference/index.htm. Indexed abstracts from presentations are available at http://www.publichealthreports.org/EOH-abstracts.
We encourage readers with an interest in healthy homes and environments, health promotion, and animals as sentinels to delve into the pages of this special supplement, which includes both research articles and practice notes. The healthy housing articles address the continued dangers of lead exposure among children, as well as a continued lack of public awareness of the dangers of carbon monoxide exposures and how to prevent them, particularly following a disaster. It has long been recognized among researchers in the injury field that while homes are generally considered safe havens, they can also be dangerous places. We now see the intersection of injury prevention and environmental health in the Healthy Homes movement; Healthy Homes programs in Oklahoma and Michigan are highlighted in this issue. Another article investigates the linkage of low lighting in homes to falls and depression and suggests that improved lighting may decrease risks for both.
Findings of positive associations between “green” housing renovations and health outcomes are also featured. Improving ventilation and reducing moisture, mold, pests, and radon led to significant health improvements and decreased energy demands among residents of a low-income housing development. Interventions to reduce allergens in homes of asthmatic children utilizing home visits both in research and practice yielded positive outcomes. Providing health education materials and instructions to the homeowners was key to the success of the interventions. The use of television programming as a successful vehicle for disseminating important messages on environmental exposure to toxic substances is also explored.
As discussed in the commentary by Dr. Portier, environmental health is a complex and broad field that has expanded beyond the once-accepted discreet limits of traditional exposure pathways—air, water, food, and soil. Environments are now recognized as much more holistic places: They are the spaces we occupy, the interrelationships of animals and plants—even the positive or negative behaviors we are exposed to are now included in the more comprehensive approach to environmental health. Environmental health research and practice will always include the foundations of the field—clean water, sanitation, and hygiene—but it has also grown to include new and equally important areas of interest, such as biomonitoring and climate change. As we recognize the broader implications our actions and choices have on the environment, we also recognize the effects levied on the health of us all and the opportunities we have to be healthy people living in healthy environments.
In closing, we hope that your interest in the contents of this supplement and review of the 2009 conference proceedings will serve to inspire your own efforts to understand, protect, and improve the well-being of our environment and our populations.