Standards for Health

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John Graunt is acclaimed the father of health statistics. Analytical studies in 1662 and 1681 enabled him to demonstrate successfully significant facts that vital statistics disclosed. In his Observations Upon the Dublin Bills of Mortality, Graunt referred to the importance of accurate and complete data, recommended an exercise for improving data collection in Dublin and claimed that an “eight or ten pound per annum surcharge would make the Bills of Dublin to exceed all others, and become an excellent instrument of Government”.

Graunt categorised years as “healthful” and “sickly” and on the basis of his analysis of the Dublin Bills selected 1641 as the “Standard of Health”. He ventured to make a “standard of the healthfulness of the Air” and of the “wholesomeness of the food”. Graunt’s observations were outstanding in his time and still illustrate for of certain routine us the significance data as a source of valuable environmental health management information.

Since Grants time advances in know­ ledge on the dynamics of spread of communicable disease, and of the relationship between environmental factors and human health have provided insights into environmental requirements for healthful living. These insights have been translated into statutory requirements in certain cases; and standards, guidelines, and codes of practice have been proposed and adopted in relation to many aspects of environmental health. Microbiological standards for drinking water, bathing water, and food; structural and operational hygiene standards for food premises; and guidelines for septic tank systems; are a few of the many examples that come to mind.

While the rationale for standards may be clear, their formulation and adoption present a significant challenge. Standards in environmental health and’ vary across jurisdictional boundaries. Solutions to environmental health problems come in various shapes and sizes. With the aim of promoting and ensuring a healthful environment it is desirable that appropriate uniform standards be formulated and adopted in relation to those areas of environ­ mental health that lend themselves to such an approach. Variation in approaches can be inequitable and affect credibility where requirements impose unequal burdens. An approach that seeks an optimum solution, having fully considered all the factors involved. and which is formulated and adopted on the basis of a consensus on its merits, would appear to offer the best solution.

The matter of formulation and adoption of environmental health standards by the Association is under examination and branches will be approached for their views and submissions.