From the fall of the Roman Empire to the discovery of Love Canal, to the epidemics of asthma, childhood obesity and lead poisoning in West Philadelphia, the impact of the environment on health has been a continuous challenge to society. The physical environment can adversely affect people’s health more strongly than biological factors, medical care and lifestyle.The water we drink, the food we eat, the air we breathe, and the neighborhood we live in are all components of the environment that impact our health. Some estimates, based on morbidity and mortality statistics, indicate that the impact of the environment on health is as high as 80%. These impacts are particularly significant in urban areas like West Philadelphia. Over the last 20 years, the field of environmental health has matured and expanded to become one of the most comprehensive and humanly relevant disciplines in science.
This course will examine not only the toxicity of physical agents, but also the effects on human health of lifestyle, social and economic factors, and the built environment. Topics include in-door air quality, water borne diseases, radon, endocrine disruption, lead poisoning, respiratory diseases and obesity. Students will research the health impacts of industrial pollution case studies in the US. Class discussions will also include risk communication, community outreach and education, access to health care and impact on vulnerable populations. Each student will have the opportunity to focus on Public Health Practices, Environmental Threats, Public Policy, and Environmental Education issues as they discuss approaches to mitigating environmental health risks. This honors seminar will consist of lectures, guest speakers, readings, student presentations, discussions, research, and community service.
The students will form research teams and conduct a risk assessment in response an environmental problem, and explore the many facets that must be addressed to reduce the impact to the affected population. The major research assignment for the course will be a problem-oriented research paper and presentation on a topic related to community-based environmental health selected by the student. In this paper, the student must also develop reasonable and implementable recommendations to reduce adverse impacts to the at-risk public.