Preventing disease through healthy environments: a global assessment of the burden of disease from environmental risks

Resource Type: 
Publication Date: 
March, 2016
Major Issue: 
Environmental Health Basics
Issue Area: 
Children’s Health
Environment (Air, Water, Land)
Geographic Focus: 

The World Health Organization estimates that 12.6 million people died as a result of living or working in an unhealthy environment in 2012 – nearly 1 in 4 of total global death.  Environmental risk factors, such as air, water and soil pollution, chemical exposures, climate change, and ultraviolet radiation, contribute to more than 100 diseases and injuries.

This second edition of the report, “Preventing disease through healthy environments: a global assessment of the burden of disease from environmental risks”, reveals that since the report was first published a decade ago, deaths due to noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), mostly attributable to air pollution (including exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke), amount to as much as 8.2 million of these deaths. NCDs, such as stroke, heart disease, cancers and chronic respiratory disease, now amount to nearly two-thirds of the total deaths caused by unhealthy environments.

The second edition of Preventing Disease through Healthy Environments:

  • Updates the 2006 publication and presents the latest evidence on environment-disease links and their devastating impact on global health.
  • Systematically analyses and quantifies how different diseases are impacted by environmental risks, detailing the regions and populations most vulnerable to environmentally mediated death, disease and injury.
  • Is exhaustive in its coverage. It examines the health impacts of environmental risks on more than 100 diseases and injuries. Some of these environmental factors are well known, such as unsafe drinking-water and sanitation, and air pollution and indoor stoves; others less so, such as climate change or the built environment.
  • Highlights promising areas for immediate intervention and gaps where further research is needed to establish the linkages and quantify the burden of disease for various environmental risk factors.

The report cites proven strategies for improving the environment and preventing diseases.

A Prüss-Ustün, J Wolf, C Corvalán, R Bos and M Neira