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DFID Health, environment and the burden of disease: a guidance note

Author(s): Cairncross, Sandy  |  O'Neill, Dominic  |  McCoy, Anne  |  Sethi, Dinesh

Publisher: DFID
Place of publication: London
Year: 2003

Series: WELL Books
Collection(s): WELL

ISBN: 1861925549


Good health is both an end and a means of sustainable livelihood. For poor households, health is an essential asset in the pursuit of their livelihood, but their home and work environment often threatens their health.

Improving environmental conditions which affect health is therefore basic to the creation of sustainable livelihoods and the elimination of poverty.

Progress towards the key Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) will be accelerated through improved environmental health conditions, in particular the MDGs for child health, access to water and sanitation and environmental sustainability. While many other interventions may also accelerate progress, the multi-sectoral approach to environmental health offers cost effective and sustainable improvements.

Environmental risk factors account for 21% of the overall burden of disease worldwide, and more in developing countries. Some 1.7 million young children die each year from diarrhoea associated with inadequate water supplies, sanitation and hygiene and a further 1.4 million child deaths from respiratory infections are attributable to indoor air pollution.

Environmental improvements are often more cost-effective as health measures than curative health services. After all, prevention is better than cure.

This Guidance Note examines the conditions which determine whether an environmental hazard is responsible for a substantial amount of disease, and whether feasible measures are available to prevent it. It considers three problems which account for nearly three quarters of the environmental burden of disease:

  • Water, sanitation and hygiene
  • Indoor air pollution, and
  • Injuries

Environmental health  |  Hygiene promotion  |  Indoor air pollution  |  Injuries  |  Sanitation  |  Water supply