Healthy Environments, Healthy People: A Funder Guide on Improving Environmental Conditions for Health

Resource Type: 
This is a HEFN resource.
Publication Date: 
January, 2014
Major Issue: 
Environmental Health Basics
Issue Area: 
Children’s Health
Environment (Air, Water, Land)
Health Disparities / Social Determinants of Health

Scientists have confirmed what many people know from life experience: everyday environmental conditions affect health.  Substantial research has found that pollutants worsen health outcomes, both individually and in combination with genetic and socioeconomic factors.  This information creates a new opportunity for philanthropy concerned with health: many health problems may be reduced or prevented by improving environmental conditions.

Environmental health – the study of and work on environmental conditions impacting health – is a dynamic area of philanthropy.  Grantmakers concerned about health, conservation, community development, and environmental justice are investing in environmental health because they recognize that:

  • People are affected by the environment, and people affect the environment.  
  • Understanding how the environment affects health creates significant opportunities to prevent disease and proactively protect people.
  • Building awareness of health stakes in environmental conditions helps build support for environmental protection.
  • Everyone deserves to live in environmental conditions that make a healthy life possible.

Philanthropy is helping to expand knowledge about the connections between health and the environment.  It also is helping put that knowledge into action to improve environmental conditions where people live, learn, work, and play.

This issue brief is an excellent "first-read" for funders newly interested in environmental health and environmental justice. It provides funders with a basic understanding of concerns about environmental impacts on health and an introduction to strategies grantmakers are pursuing to address these impacts.

, Michael Passoff, Health and Environmental Funders Network