The Natural Environment is composed of safe and contaminant-free air, clean water for drinking as well as other bodies of water, and soils that are safe to grow our gardens.
The Natural Environment & Latino Health
The quality of our natural environment has an immediate impact on our health. Poor air quality impacts rates of asthma and other respiratory illnesses, and also discourages children from outdoor play. Access to safe drinking water is crucial in reducing rates of type II diabetes and obesity, and ensuring that soil is free of toxins supports local and large-scale production of healthful foods.
Our planet’s resources find themselves in a precarious situation. The very ideals and strengths that have helped humanity survive, to become a force in complete control of its destiny – no longer ruled by our basic instincts but guided by our intelligence – have also left us stranded on a cliff’s edge. Our great ability to shape the world has become our achilles heel. In the very act of shaping the planet for our benefit, we’ve also inadvertently caused numerous health hazards and problems.
Everyone has the right to safe, clean, and affordable water. For most of us in California, our tap water provides affordable, high quality water. Unfortunately up to two million Californians are at risk of losing their water supply to contamination, and even those of us served by large and efficiently run water agencies may be forced to pay higher prices for water because of contamination of the State’s water supply.
Humans interact with the environment constantly. These interactions affect quality of life, years of healthy life lived, and health disparities. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines environment, as it relates to health, as “all the physical, chemical, and biological factors external to a person, and all the related behaviors.”1 Environmental health consists of preventing or controlling disease, injury, and disability related to the interactions between people and their environment.
And neighborhood environmental factors— from economic opportunities to the physical environment to social connections among neighbors to supportive services—profoundly influence the health of residents. In 2007, we published Why Place Matters to examine how these environmental factors can be strengthened and enlivened to benefit the health of all communities. The report looked at the growing movement in California and around the nation to develop place-based solutions to place-based problems—particularly in low-income communities and communities of color, where residents are disproportionately burdened by harmful environmental factors and a long list of associated health risks.