Global Perspectives on Environmental Health

At the heart of nursing is the need to ensure that the patients’ needs are catered for from all perspectives. One of the corresponding metaparadigms is the environment that is a combination of all factors that affect the health of a person and are outside an individual. Therefore, in the line of ensuring that nurses have the required diversity in knowledge needed in the evidence-based practice, environmental issues are now of a great concern in the nursing field. Similarly, due to globalization, it is a common occurrence that a person might visit a region where there are environmental challenges, and then one may come back with a health complication that is not common in the country of origin. It is in appreciation of this perspective that the primary concern of this analysis is to shed light on the crucial insights nursing can get from exploring the challenges from a global perspective of environmental health.

Historical Perspectives on Environmental Health Learning in Nursing

Environmental health was a phenomenon that was first raised by Florence Nightingale when she was serving at Scutari. Being an observant person, she noted that a majority if the sick people were becoming ill due to the causes that could have been prevented. Nightingale’s argument was that, in most cases, the disease symptoms were not emanating from the illness itself but from the person needing a change in environmental aspects such as the need for fresh air, a clean house or warmth to name but a few. She added that when an assessment is done, and the environmental issues are overlooked, the preventive aspect of caring is missed. Despite the close relation of environmental matters and health status, the nursing discipline continued to treat environmental factors as a different entity in the nursing discipline.

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However, when the debate of the preventive practices become of interest, the insights provided by Nightingale were slowly being integrated into nursing. This was an era when nurses started going to the field to visit the sick; their responsibility was not isolated to caring for the ill, but also helping the community in cleaning their environment. This was the beginning of the improved integration of matters related with the environment into nursing practice. This was followed in an era of population-based perspective where the intention was to assess the patients in the context of the population they live in as means of improving the assessment. In the same spirit, in 1992, the World Health Organization appreciated that the health condition of the people heavily depended on environmental factors and thus the need to control elements that might affect the health of the current and future generations. These are the assertions that were seconded by the International Council of Nursing where the argument was that the health of the people solely relies on the health of the planet (environment). Optimally, environmental issues came to be recognized fully as a crucial subject in nursing as envisaged in different policies such as Affordable Care Act and Health People 2020 policies that form integral regulations in nursing in current order of the discipline.

Importance of Documented/Published Health Care Disparities/Inequalities

Healthcare disparities/inequalities are phenomena that bring about the difference in the way people access healthcare services. It is this imbalance that makes some populations experience numerous challenges while seeking medical attention. This is a problem that leads to disadvantaged people facing low index in their health status in contrast to those experiencing fewer or no challenges in this area. This is a huge issue in the healthcare sector that undermines the spirit of inclusiveness in the health sector as envisaged by the Healthy People 2020 and the Affordable Care Act of 2010. However, the documented cases of healthcare disparities also provide a reference point from which crucial realignments can be made. It is through this data that policies can be formulated with respect to the difficulties faced by the disadvantaged populations.

It is also through the documented healthcare disparities that it is possible to identify the factors behind the low health score of a particular population and then to incorporate supportive strategies that aid in improving the reach of the healthcare sector. Moreover, it is through the details captured in this perspective that it is possible to identify the most effective primary intervention that can apply to different communities. Concerning the healthcare policy makers, this information can be useful in ensuring that the right resources are channeled to the right departments in the line of seeing that the challenges of accessing quality healthcare are eliminated. Healthcare disparity statics, therefore, provide a reference point where evaluation can be made to help come up with a supportive approach that improves the reach of the sector thus eliminating the accessibility challenges to the affected populations.

Formalized Regulatory Guidelines

In the attempt to eliminate the challenge of healthcare inequalities and safeguarding environmental health, there has been developed one primary regulatory policy namely Health People 2020. In the context of environmental health, it is the assertion of Healthy People 2020 that safeguarding the quality of the environment plays a crucial role in guaranteeing the health of the people and longer lives accompanied by healthy life. Moreover, it is the call to ensure that the external environment is protected, because diseases emanate from the interaction between people and polluted environment. The intention of this guideline, on the one hand, in safeguarding the American healthcare through improving outdoor air, surface and ground and safeguarding global environmental health. On the other hand, in the context of healthcare inequality, the goal of Healthy People 2020 is to ensure that American people have improved accessibility to healthcare services. Concerning the process of globalization, the goal of the policy is to safeguard the American health through improved understanding of the global health challenges to better realign the sector thus empowering it.

Moral, Legal or Ethical Issues in Environmental Health

As evident, the majority of insights related to environmental factors depend heavily on research work. It is from this perspective that the nurses face huge legal and ethical challenges. In the context of ethics, nurses are sometimes in dilemma between safeguarding the “self” and advocating for the people’s welfare. This is especially true when a nurse finds an element of neglect or a fact of the use of hazardous substance that she or he is forced to conceal from his/her authority. Although the moral authority demands full disclosure by nurses of relevant information to the people, sometimes they face huge overhead challenges where community leaders or company management assumes the responsibility of disclosing the findings of an environmental commissioned research. Legal challenges, in their turn, are usually brought by the lack of awareness of the public on their environmental rights. Ensuring that the environment is safeguarded requires both the nurse and the public to work closely and inform one another accordingly, but the lack of knowledge makes it harder for the nurses to get the right information in the right time.

Burden of Chronic Care in the Context of Environmental Health

Environmental challenges have caused huge problems that entail both the medical and economic burden. The most noticeable environmental issue that has created the biggest burden is the air pollution. In the context of China where air pollution is significantly high, close to 4,000 people die daily with coal burning being the primary cause. Moreover, in the same country, there are tiny pollutant particles that have been associated with heart attacks, asthma, and lung cancer and result in approximately 1.6 million mortalities annually. Moreover, in 2013, the air pollution in China resulted in 916,000 premature deaths. Globally, 5.5 million people die prematurely particularly due to the factors that emanate from air pollution in households and outside.

Healthcare Productivity and Economic Costs

In the line of understanding the impact of environmental factors on people’s health, an in-depth research is required and demands heavy investment. It is through research that it is possible to understand the influence of different environmental aspects on diverse population. For example, the environmental factors make Zika Virus more prominent in Brazil. However, to get detailed information, the concerned division has to make huge investments from a small budget that has to also meet the demands of an expanding population. 

Current policies appreciate this scarcity. A good example is the Affordable Care Act, and the call is for the players to caution the healthcare sector from high economic cost through improved efficiency. If environmental factors are going to be effectively integrated into nursing, research work is a mandatory exercise, and thus there is the need to ensure that nurses are heavily involved in team-based approach concerning environment matters. With teamwork, efficiency is easily attained. Moreover, this close collaboration will aid the sharing of information thus reducing the chances or replica research undertaking, and this will optimally enhance the healthcare productivity while cautioning the sector from unnecessary economic costs.

Conclusion

It is evident that due to globalization, the interaction of people from different regions has brought the need to evaluate issues from a global perspective to improve the scope of the art of caregiving. Moreover, it is clear that matters concerning global environmental health are closely related to the health status of the people due to the effects of unhealthy environmental factors. Besides, it is clear that information on health care disparities provides a reference platform based on which constructive interventions can be formulated. As evident in the Chinese case and the global statistics, the burden of environmental factors in the healthcare sector has been the massive loss of life. Over and above, it is clear that environmental health is closely related to the global health status of the people, and thus there is the need to safeguard the environment as a means towards guaranteeing people’s health.

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