Enhancing the environmental health of societies is a key component to the economy, recovery and stimulus measures that governments are currently designing
The Covid-19 crisis has demonstrated that societies must strengthen their resilience to the pandemic and other emergencies.
Currently, countries are concentrating in the short term on shoring up the public health system and addressing the immediate economic impact of the crisis.
“But, in the medium to longer term, enhancing the environmental health of societies, for example, aspects of human health and well-being that are determined by environmental factors, is a key component to the economy, recovery and stimulus measures that governments are currently designing,” said Malaysian Association of Environmental Health (MAEH) President Megat Azman Megat Mokhtar.
He said limiting people’s exposure to hazardous physical, chemical, and biological agents in air, water and soil, food, and other environmental media would reduce their vulnerability to future pandemics. It will also help increase people’s health and well-being and complement the public health system.
“I strongly feel that acting collectively in need of the hour and uniting our environmental health practitioners for a common cause can work wonders. It is my most sincere hope that this conference will have our practitioners take strong resolutions on how they can move closer towards attaining our goals,” he added.
Focusing on tackling challenges
Environmental health is a subspecialty of public health that focuses on monitoring and mitigating environmental factors that impact human health and disease. It identifies, evaluates, and limits exposure to hazardous physical, chemical, and biological agents that may harm human health in environmental settings.
Megat Azman was speaking at the World Congress on Environmental Health (WCEH), a bi-annual event that aims to provide a forum for environmental health practitioners to discuss and tackle challenges and problems faced by them in the environmental health sector. WCEH is initiated by the International Federation of Environmental Health (IFEH) but is organised by the country’s respective environmental health representative body. The 16th edition of the event, WCEH 2022, was successfully organised by the MAEH at the World Trade Centre Kuala Lumpur from Aug 23-25, 2022.
The theme of the congress was ‘Environmental Health Issues, Challenges and Sustainability: Covid-19 Pandemic’, focusing on tackling challenges faced by environmental health practitioners from different countries during the pandemic.
During the opening ceremony, Megat Azman revealed that it was the second time Malaysia had become the event host since 1994. On behalf of the association, he expressed his excitement in organising the congress after 28 years.
Handover of the IFEH Presidency
The opening ceremony of WCEH 2022 also witnessed the handover of the IFEH Presidency by IFEH Outgoing President Prof Susana Paixao to Dr Henroy Scarlett from Jamaica Association of Public Health Inspector.
During the last two years, Paixao has worked tirelessly to engage with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP) meetings on climate change to get environmental health more integrated into the UN’s overall agenda.
In her speech, Paixao highlighted that the environmental health workforce had to be resilient as they had to deal with problems, adapt to changes, overcome obstacles, and resist the pressure of adverse situations to achieve a better health situation worldwide.
“The pandemic has come to demonstrate the vital role of the environmental health professionals all over. We must take advantage of this window of opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of environmental health. Working within the scope of health promotion and disease prevention is key to the adversity the world is experiencing, the climate change and new epidemics ahead.
“Therefore, it is important to organise this kind of event, to share knowledge and information to keep us updated to achieve these goals.”
The importance of the environmental health workforce
Paixao believes the environmental health workforce is increasingly playing a leading role in building a healthier and more sustainable world, especially with the help of the IFEH. It works to disseminate knowledge concerning environmental health and promote cooperation between countries where environmental health issues are transboundary.
“I will continue working towards a better and more recognised environmental health workforce worldwide,” added Paixao before extending her best wishes to the new IFEH President, Dr Scarlett, who will hold the IFEH Presidency until 2024.
In his speech, Dr Scarlett pointed out that almost all diseases had environmental contributions. He emphasised that there was a need to advocate for a more significant proportion of the global budget to be spent on environmental health if the world is serious about preventing preventable diseases and promoting health and wellness in the population. – The Health