Health and Environment in the WHO European Region: Creating resilient communities and supportive environments

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2013

In the early years of the 21st century, the WHO European Region has attained notable progress on environment and health issues. However, significant cause for concern remains. The environmental burden of disease has persisted in some geographic areas, and is either newly emerging or re-emerging in others. Environmental determinants of health are estimated to account for approximately 20% of total mortality and up to 25% of the total burden of disease,1 much of it unevenly distributed across geographic, demographic, sociocultural and socioeconomic subgroups. This generates large costs, consumes important resources, prevents the attainment of optimal health and well-being, and undermines societal and economic development.

Many public health challenges of our times, such as those associated with demographic changes, growing health inequalities and increasing incidence of noncommunicable diseases, have complex connections to the physical environment. The environment must be recognized as not only a source of potential hazards, but also a health-promoting and health-protecting asset that can extend life, improve its quality and increase overall well-being. A comprehensive understanding of the relationship between health and the environment requires a forward-looking perspective and insight into the composite interactions among the physical, biological and social spheres.