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Environmental Health 2.1

David Dyjack, DrPH, CIH

In late 2015 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a report containing mind-numbing figures. For fiscal year 2014, 17.5% of gross domestic product was spent on health care; that's $3 trillion, or roughly $9,500 for every man women and child. Each U.S. citizen has a vested interest in getting these expenditures under control. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 2.5% of that astonishing figure is invested in public health and prevention. At the same time, the health status of the U.S. population has languished. E. coli and noroviruses are daily news. The U.S. suffers from 20 million foodborne illnesses a year; globally, the number approaches 550 million with an estimated 230,000 deaths, mostly among children younger than five.

Here in the U.S. about 13% of the total burden of disease is attributable to the environment. That translates to 400,000 deaths and almost six million disability-adjusted life years lost each and every year. Leading the way is cardiovascular disease, in which air quality plays a major role. Neuropsychiatric disorders (think heavy metals such as lead) represent $4.3 billion in lost productivity among the exposed. The bronze medal goes to cancer; about 6% of all cancers are reportedly related to occupational and environmental exposures.

Ignoring the environment comes at a great cost to society. Environmental health professionals have an important, and in my estimation, growing role to play in the future of health writ large ...

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Journal of Environmental Health
March 2016
Volume 78, Number