Reducing environmental health risks and preventing injury

Our environment influences our health through exposure to physical, chemical and biological risks, and by shaping changes to people's behaviour. Tasmanians' health is built on having clean water, air, safe food and housing; being protected from pollutants; and efforts to prevent exposure to hazards and control disease.

Environmental health covers assessing and controlling the factors that influence health, working to prevent disease and creating health-supporting environments.

Impact and scale of the issue

The environment that we live in makes a significant contribution to all the major health disorders: for example heart and lung disease, injury, stroke and depression.

Environmental health risks can also lead to injuries. Injury is the greatest cause of death in the first half of life, and the seventh leading cause of death overall in Tasmania.

Health inequity, environmental hazards and injury

Reducing environmental health hazards and preventing injury can improve health outcomes for the whole community. However, environmental hazards are not experienced evenly.People experiencing socio-economic disadvantage, people living in rural areas and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are affected more than the rest of the community. Socio-economic disadvantage and living in rural and regional areas are also associated with increased risk of injury.

Urban green spaces have beneficial health effects; however, green space is not always distributed equitably between more and less disadvantaged communities.

Evidence that health promotion action can bring about change

Many of the most effective injury prevention strategies use environment and enforcement strategies and are now part of everyday life: for example car seatbelts, pedestrian crossings, safety harnesses.

There has been significant public health success from clean water testing and efforts to address the effects of domestic wood smoke. Health promotion has also made a difference in falls prevention programs for older people, and sun protection campaigns.