International Environmental Health – A New Beginning

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by Fred O’Brien, Editor
IJEH vol 1, no 1. September 1988

The International Federation of Environmental Health was established on the principle that member organizations would participate on an ‘equal say’ basis; and in the belief that shared knowledge and action on the environment at an international level would best benefit environmental health worldwide. From the very outset the Federation sought an appropriate mouthpiece in the form of an international journal and it is with a great deal of pleasure that we present this first issue of the International Journal of Environmental Health

We rejoice that a new structure of collaboration on international environmental health matters has been established; and that environmental health professionals worldwide have an opportunity, through their input and support of the organization, to formulate and promote an international policy that can serve to shape national and international environmental conditions conducive to world health.

The ultimate measure by which success in environmental activity is gauged is the impact it has on human health and wellbeing. As a criterion of success it is a most basic and fundamental measure and it is one that must not be ignored. We shall endeavour to develop a responsible and thoughtful approach to environmental health in which we will be continually questioning to what extent procedures and practices at local, regional, national and international level contribute to human wellbeing; and in which we will seek to develop collaborative approaches on a variety of fronts to ensure protection of the environment in the interest of the health of all peoples.

No society is healthful which tells its members to take no thought for the morrow because the state underwrites its future. Environmental health cannot be successfully promoted by governments and their agencies alone. On this month some ten years ago now the ‘Declaration of Alma-Ata’, which introduced the World Health Organization ‘Health for All by the Year 2,000’ strategy, was drawn up at the International Conference on Primary Health Care in the Soviet Union. It recognises that ‘people have the right and the duty to participate individually and collectively in the planning and implementation of their health care’. Additionally, it seeks to involve, not only the health sector, but all related sectors, singling out in particular agriculture, animal husbandry, food, industry, education, housing, public works and communications sectors to guarantee the coordinated approach required to promote world health.

National and international strategies for environmental health should be adopted and should include input, not only from the health sector, but from a wide range of social and economic partners, ensuring a coordinated effort in promoting the public health. Modern man is suffering from a severe fragmentation of his world picture which leads directly to an obsession with isolated parts and segmented approaches to problem solving. Increasingly health aspects are being excluded from environmental, agricultural, food, industrial and energy policy decisions, and in many countries environmental priorities tend to ignore health goals. The International Federation of Environmental Health will encourage and promote developments which will ensure that environmental health is not considered as an optional extra but as a fundamental component of national and international economic and social policy.

It is entirely appropriate that our Journal be launched at the Inaugural World Congress of Environmental Health in Sydney, Australia, at a gathering of environmental health personnel from many parts of the world. The Australian Institute of Health Surveyors is to be congratulated on hosting the congress under the auspices of the International Federation of Environmental Health, and we are confident that the initiative shown will be a headline for other associations worldwide.

[Declaration of Alma Ata]