New country profiles show changes in environmental health inequalities

WHO/Charles Ndwiga

New country profiles released by the WHO European Centre for Environment and Health show how countries across the WHO European Region have achieved reductions in some areas of environmental health inequalities. However, work remains to be done in other areas.

Environmental determinants are a major contributor to health and well-being, but are not distributed equally. In most countries, disadvantaged population groups tend to be significantly more exposed to environmental risks.

Two major assessment reports published in 2012 and 2019 reviewed the status of environmental health inequalities within Member States of the Region. The collection of country profiles supplements the second assessment report, and provides countries with more information on the environmental health inequality trends and changes between 2012 and 2019.

Almost all countries have achieved reductions in at least some dimensions of environmental health inequalities. For example, Albania achieved better equality in access to basic drinking water and sanitation services between those living in rural and urban areas. Meanwhile, Poland reduced inequalities in fatal work-related and road-traffic injuries between males and females, as well as between different age groups.

Yet, other dimensions of environmental health inequalities have increased in many countries. For each country, the profiles show where further action is needed.

The supplement report enables Member States to quickly gain insight into changes in inequality over time for many indicators related to housing conditions, basic services, urban environments, transport, work settings and injuries, which otherwise would be difficult to establish.

Knowledge of these national inequality features can support environmental and intersectoral action to identify and protect those who carry a disproportionate environmental burden, thereby helping reduce health inequalities.