Recent European developments have emphasised the need to reduce the burden of disease attributable to physical environment. Specifically, the World Health Organisation (WHO) led Ministerial Conferences on Environment and Health and the European Union’s “European Environmental Health Strategy” (known as SCALE), have given new purpose and direction to this important area of public health.
At the most recent Ministerial Conference on Environment & Health, Ministers committed to developing national Children’s Environment and Health Action Plans (CEHAPE). Embedded in this is a call for the development of a European Region-wide Environmental Health Information System (EHIS), a harmonised and evidence based information system to support public health and environmental policies in Europe. The envisaged system will integrate elements such as data from monitoring and statistics, indicators and assessment and reporting, including information about relevant policies and projects. SCALE also emphasises the need to improve the evidence chain by developing integrated environment and health information. For practical reasons, the EHIS has been discerned as the appropriate single vehicle through which to pursue the evidential aspirations of both initiatives and the work is being taken forward through a partnership of the WHO, the EU, the European Environment Agency and Member States. Each initiative has a focus on children and each places high importance on evidence to inform policy and the evaluation of the effectiveness of interventions.
There is recognition in both initiatives of the need for “environment and health indicators” which elucidate links between human health and environment in Europe and to inform policy. As part of the process in developing the EHIS, WHO have published the results of a pilot study on environment & health indicators and identifed as core set of 44.
The work to which this project relates is an integral part of a wider long term project through which the UK will develop environmental health information systems for the UK, which will fulfil (a) the UK’s own evidential requirements in optimising environmental policy for public health, and (b) address its international commitments under CEHAPE and SCALE.
The following issues will be addreszed by the project -
To what extent are the 44 indicators within the WHO pilot study relevant to UK policy as a whole and policy within the Devolved Administrations (DAs) in the areas of health improvement, health protection, sustainability, and environmental quality?
To what extent are the indicators themselves or the data required to construct the indicators available in all parts of the UK? Integral to addressing this question is a critique of the data currently collected in terms of (as appropriate) criteria such as the degree of temporal and spatial resolution and data quality.
What additional data sets held within the UK and DAs might of themselves or as part of a composite indicator contribute to evidence of progress towards the CEHAPE regional priority goals and the objectives within the SCALE Action Plan?