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Year : 2015  |  Volume : 59  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 72-77  

Prize winning essays: Undergraduate submissions to road to ISMoPH- environment - agenda for health promotion

1 MBBS Student, Calcutta National Medical College, Kolkata, India
2 MBBS Student second year, Murshidabad Medical College and Hospital, Berhampur, West Bengal, India
3 BSc Nursing Student, Medical College, Kolkata, India

Date of Web Publication9-Mar-2015

Correspondence Address:
Debaditya Das
MBBS Student, Calcutta National Medical College, Kolkata
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0019-557X.152884

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How to cite this article:
Das D, Jha A, Bag A. Prize winning essays: Undergraduate submissions to road to ISMoPH- environment - agenda for health promotion. Indian J Public Health 2015;59:72-7

How to cite this URL:
Das D, Jha A, Bag A. Prize winning essays: Undergraduate submissions to road to ISMoPH- environment - agenda for health promotion. Indian J Public Health [serial online] 2015 [cited 2023 Mar 23];59:72-7. Available from:

Debaditya Das

MBBS Student, Calcutta National Medical College, Kolkata, India

E-mail: [email protected]

'The study of disease is really the study of man and his environment'

is defined as 'all that which is exterior to the individual human host". It implies all the external factors - living and non-living, material and non-material - which surround man.

The main principle of a man's health status lies in his environment. Adverse environmental factors, such as, water, soil, and air pollution, poor housing conditions, presence of animal reservoirs, and insect vectors of disease, pose a threat to human health. External environment includes both natural and built environment.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 'Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social wellbeing, and not merely an absence of disease or infirmity, and ability to lead a socially and economically productive life.'

Maintaining a healthy environment is central to increasing the quality of life and years of healthy living. Environmental exposures have been estimated to contribute to 4.9 million (8.7%) deaths and 86 million (5.7%) Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) globally.

The environmental factors that affect a man's health are diverse. In the natural environment, harmful and hazardous substances in the air are contributed mainly by the increasing number of vehicles and industries. More than 100 substances that pollute the air have been identified. The most important ones being carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, sulfur dioxide, sulfur trioxide, nitrogen oxides, fluorine compounds, organic compounds (aldehydes, ketones, hydrocarbons, organic acids), metallic contaminants (arsenic, zinc, iron resulting from smelting operation), radioactive compounds, photochemical oxidants such as ozone, and so on. These factors are multiplied by the cutting down of trees, which in turn leads to less purification of the atmosphere. All these lead to respiratory problems such as, respiratory tract irritation, cough, bronchial hyperactivity, lung infections, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and even lung cancer. It is estimated that some seven million premature deaths may be attributed to air pollution. India has the highest death rate from air pollution. Air pollution can be prevented and controlled by containment (prevention of escape of toxic gases into the atmosphere, replacement (replacing a technology by a new process that does not cause pollution, dilution (by planting trees), legislation, and the like.

Harmful substances in water are largely because of wastes, such as, sewage, agricultural pesticides, and insecticides being dumped by industries and their seepage into the water, polluting it. In addition, physical pollutants like heat (thermal pollution) and radioactive substances also pollute the water. The effect is damaging not only the individual species and populations, but also the natural biological communities. Water is typically referred to as polluted when it is impaired by anthropogenic contaminants and either does not support human use, such as, drinking water, or undergoes a marked shift in its ability to support its constituent biotic communities, such as fish. High levels of pathogens may result from inadequately treated discharges, caused by a sewage plant designed with less than, such as, Cryptosporidium sp., Giardia,  Salmonella More Details, worms, and the like. Industries dumping off their wastes contribute to various inorganic and organic pollutants. All these can cause a variety of water-borne diseases, such as, giardiasis, malaria, filarial, worms and so on. In addition, they also cause dental health problems and other non-specific problems on account of chemical pollutants. All these can be prevented by proper treatment of the waste discharged from the industries, with effective use of insecticides and pesticides, by taking precautions that they do not exceed the limits.

Indoor environment is also very important, as people spend a lot of time indoors each day. Indoor air pollution is caused by combustion of solid fuels, tobacco smoking, and other emissions from the surrounding microenvironment. Biological sources of air pollution are also found, for example, produce dander, people produce dust from minute skin flakes, and decomposed hair. Paint and solvents give off (VOCs) as they dry. A lack of ventilation indoors concentrates air pollution. All these cause acute respiratory infections (ARI) in young infants and chronic lung disease and even lung cancers in adults. Proper ventilation and lighting will reduce air pollution. Also cessation of cigarette smoking and using other methods in place of combustion of solid fuels will reduce a large amount of indoor air pollution. Along with air, unhygienic sanitation and poor living conditions with breeding places for vectors, such as, stagnant water around the house and cracks or fissures in the walls, increase the probability of disease incidence. Diseases like TB, malaria, kala-azar are common in these conditions. The breeding places of vectors should be destroyed and proper measures should be taken to destroy any vector.

The indoor environment not only affects the physical health, but also the mental and social health of a person. One such example is 'problem families', where parents are unable to meet the physical and emotional needs of their children. The underlying problems in most problem families are usually because of personality and relationship issues, backwardness, poverty, illness, mental and emotional instability, character defects, and marital disharmony. These families are recognized as problems in social pathology. Children reared in such families are victims of prostitution, crime, and vagrancy.

Going hand in hand with indoor environment, a man's occupational environment is as important as the former. Hazards at the work place may be physical, chemical, biological, mechanical or psychosocial. People working in factories involving harmful gases, asbestos, silica, and other dust particles may develop respiratory problems, such as, asbestosis, silicosis, and other forms of pneumoconiosis. Physical agents such as extreme heat may cause burns, heat exhaustion, heat stroke, heat cramps, and on the other hand, extreme cold may cause chilblains, immersion foot, and frostbite, as a result of cutaneous vasoconstriction. Poor illumination may cause miner's nystagmus. There may be auditory harmful effects because of noisy environments. Doctors and radiologists, having exposure to radiation, may face radiation hazards comprising of genetic changes, malformation, cancer, leukemia, depilation, ulceration, sterility, and in extreme cases, death. Not only physical health, sometimes people are unable to adapt to their alien working environment, which leads to frustration, lack of job satisfaction, and insecurity, which in turn may lead to mental illness, psychoneurosis, behavior disorders, and so on. If a person is not mentally fit, the person cannot be healthy. A healthy working mind is as important as the physical health status of an individual. Many laws like The Factories Act, 1948, The Employees State Insurance Act 1948, and the like, have been passed for prevention of occupational hazards and also to provide benefits to the workers in case of sickness, employment injury, and so on. Medical measures such as, pre-placement examination, periodical examinations, health education, and engineering measures to prevent occupational diseases have been undertaken at the blueprint stage.

Other than the indoor and working environments, there is a social environment, which is also very important for shaping a person's health status. Human behavior is determined not only by biological and physical environmental factors, but also by social factors. Public health is an integral part of the social system. It is influenced by society and the society in turn is influenced by public health. In many places, it is the social organization that has made it possible to translate into practice scientific concepts and achievements. As a result, the mortality rates have been brought to a low level and life expectancy of birth has soared to high levels. A major source of stress, particularly in transitional societies, is the conflict generated by new opportunities and frustrations arising from societal changes. The pressure is mostly felt where young people have little control over their own destinies, where rapid population expansion means greater competition in younger age groups, and where resources are unable to meet their needs. Therefore, we see that all these bring a change in the social health of a person. To add to this, the physical health of a person is also determined by the society in which he/she resides. Smokers around a person who is a non smoker, affects the latter too. There is a change in a person's physical as well as mental health, if he/she grows up around people who are alcoholics or drug addicts.

Climate change is emerging to be a factor that is responsible for the environment we live in. Emission of green house gases into the atmosphere has been increasing ever since the beginning of the industrial revolution. The surface temperature is increasing, the sea level is rising, and the increase in extreme climatic changes may lead to a series of events, which may disrupt the ecological balance of the earth. Reduction of emission of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) play an important role in not causing further damage to the ozone layer, thus preventing ultraviolet rays from entering the earth. Natural phenomena, such as, storms, and earthquakes also cause major changes in the water quality and the ecological status of water. In India, recently, we have been faced with effects of climate change like the flash floods occurring in Uttarakhand, in 2013, and the floods that occurred in Jammu and Kashmir, this year. The environment has been totally disturbed in these areas, leading to an increase in diseases, which has affected the physical health, and also led to loss of property and people becoming socially and mentally disturbed. All these disturb the health status of an individual.

Therefore, we see that environment plays a great role in shaping and maintaining one's health. Hence, for promoting the health of a community, maintaining a safe environment is very important. 'The Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion' incorporates environment as one of the five major action areas - 'create supportive environment for health'. It is said that 'The only thing more expensive than education is ignorance.' Hence, we should promote health and impart health education to people - about the importance of our environment and the ways to preserve it, because health is an issue of social justice. The protection of natural and built environments and the conservation of natural resources is an indispensable topic in any health promotion strategy. A comprehensive approach to health promotion requires environmental modifications, such as, provision of safe drinking water, purification of air, installation of sanitary latrines, control of insects and rodents, improvement of housing, and so forth.

As we know, 'prevention is better than cure', so we must all try to modify and maintain a safe and healthy environment, for promoting our health.

Akanksha Jha

MBBS Student second year, Murshidabad Medical College and Hospital, Berhampur, West Bengal, India

E-mail: [email protected]

We dwell in the twenty-first century - also known as the 'technological era' where man has even captured space, where there is a new discovery every day, where man has made his life easy with new gadgets, but one question always persists, what are we losing because of this or is there something to be seriously worried about? The answer lies here, and that is the environment, which is being 'brutally murdered' or in medical terms - an incurable disease has taken its toll on the environment, which is infectious and communicable. Yes, it is. It has taken a toll on our health, the health of its inhabitants.

The root cause of almost all our diseases or issues of health is our environment. The question arises, who is responsible for it. In a nutshell, 'a healthy mind dwells in a healthy body'. In a similar manner it can be said that, 'a healthy man dwells in a healthy environment.' It is not just one person, but each of us, in some way or the other is the culprit - right from a renowned personality to a beggar. It is a vicious cycle where the agent, the host, and the sufferer are humans.

However, the biggest mistake that man has made and is still committing is ignoring this very fact. For instance, all of us have come across children searching for something in the garbage or people eating food from roadside stalls, which have houseflies hovering over it. The various disease outbreaks that affect the world at times can be evaded if we pay some attention to our environment. Do we ever think of it or even ponder over such issues? We have hardly done so, else this very topic of discussion would not have existed.

The easiest and the most effective way to promote health is to promote environment - the need of the hour is to generate awareness and responsibility toward our environment. What is environment? The book says that 'it is our surrounding, but it is not just the trees, rivers, and so on, it is also the people and society around us that constitute the environment.' At times, we take steps to promote nature, but we hardly take steps to promote the other constituent of the environment, that is, people.

For instance we all have come across slogans that 'smoking causes pollution' or 'smoking is injurious to your health,' but we hardly advertise that 'smoking is injurious for everyone's health' be it a smoker or a non-smoker. The person who smokes is affected, but a person in the vicinity is affected as well. As a human being, our health is our responsibility, but if we cannot take care of our health then we have no right to harm the health of others. However, stopping smoking is not just the duty of the government, but it is our duty as well. The fear of law cannot drive away the menace, but the thought of losing one's life can. This has to be started right from the basic education - be it in school or at home. A child has to be taught the ill effects of smoking right from childhood.

It must be made very clear that smoking is 'harmful' and not something that is 'cool' or 'trendy' (as the present generation considers it to be). In this manner, to some extent, smoking can be prevented in future generations, while for the existing ones, the after effects of smoking must be stressed upon, more than the ill effects of smoking. What the government can do is enforce and implement laws that exist with regard to smoking and impose heavy duties on all sorts of tobacco products. With this simple effort, a number of incidences of cancer will drop down. Thus, one of the biggest murderers of humans will be tamed.

Medical practitioners should make it a point to convince their patients about the need of the three Cs - Clean food, Clean water, and Clean environment,' - even if the patient is literate, as almost always, the literate people are the ones who help mosquitoes to breed in their gardens, flower pots, cooler ducts, and so on. Ironically, even if a person is rich and educated, one hardly pays attention to such things, despite being told several times. There should be a committee set up by the government in every district and town to check if industries follow the norms of waste disposal or not. Irrespective of the status or affluence of the culprit concerned, heavy fines should be imposed and implemented as well. In this manner, the government can recover the costs incurred on such checks. Many of the diseases that we come across are mostly because of polluted natural resources - water, soil, and the like. Keeping them pollution-free will help to eradicate such diseases.

Mass cleaning programs should be made compulsory at least twice every month, to start with, with reports being sent directly to the local municipal office. Tax incentives and other benefits should be given by the government to encourage such acts. Every housing society and neighborhood should make sure that they appoint a resident as in-charge.

As the WHO says, 'Health is the physical, mental, and social well-being of a person and not merely the absence of a disease or infirmity.' Social issues should also be taken into consideration. There is no need to make any additional efforts, just proper implementation of the present laws is sufficient to eradicate such problems. In this manner, the number of mentally affected people will automatically come down.

Health is not about having medicines and curing a disease, it is about stopping it from happening again. There is no need to wait for government proposals, just starting it from our houses and workplaces will help it to spread everywhere. Social networking can help as well. Showing videos or distributing pamphlets hardly helps. It is just a waste of money. One can cut down on health expenses by just devoting some time to the care of our environment. Some find it a waste of time, but wasting time is better than wasting money.

Now is the time to act. Let us make our concern for our environment our daily routine, then we will hardly need any more health supplements.

Anindita Bag

BSc Nursing Student, Medical College, Kolkata, India

E-mail: [email protected]

'The goal of life is living in agreement with nature'
- zero.

According to modern concept of environment, it includes all the external factors - living and non-living, maternal and non-maternal - which surround man and also the social and economic conditions under which we live.

For the descriptive purpose environment has been divided into three components, all closely related:

  1. . Physical: Water, air, soil, housing, waste, radiation, and so on.
  2. . Biological: Plant and animal life, including bacteria, viruses, insects, rodents, and animals.
  3. Social: Customs, culture, habits, income, occupation, religion, and the like.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO).

'Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely an absence of disease or infirmity.'

The key to man's health lies largely in his environment. In fact, much of man's ill health can be traced to adverse environmental factors, such as, water pollution, air pollution, poor housing, and presence of animal reserves and insect vectors of diseases, which pose a constant threat to man's health.

Therefore, environment and health are inter-related, we cannot differentiate them. If we harm anyone of these the other will be automatically affected. Good environment is an agenda for health promotion. It provides,

  • Safe and wholesome water.
  • Fresh air rich with Oxygen.
  • Green earth.
  • Healthy animal life.
  • Good culture, customs, occupation, education, and the like.
An essential problem of the twenty-first century is pollution. Currently the environment is so contaminated that urgent measures have to be taken.

'Together we can protect the people and the environment.'

To protect the environment and prevent pollution, we have to know the sources of pollution and we have to destroy these sources.

The sources of pollutants and their after-effects can be tabulated as follows:

Conclusion: 'Raise your voice not the sea level.'

Therefore, as a member of the world and its environment, it is one's duty to safeguard the environment, by which one's health will automatically be taken care of. We have to unite and make this our aim and try to reach it. By doing so, we can protect our earth and live peacefully.


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