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Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública

On-line version ISSN 1680-5348Print version ISSN 1020-4989


ORDONEZ, Gonzalo A.. Environmental health: concepts and activities. Rev Panam Salud Publica [online]. 2000, vol.7, n.3, pp.137-147. ISSN 1680-5348.

The objective of this study is to provide information and a conceptual framework that will facilitate the work of persons in charge of systematizing institutions devoted to environmental health. The notion of "environment" is examined and a definition is proposed, while a look is also taken at the place held by environmental health within the context of environmental problems and their "green" and "blue" components. A number of definitions are put forth before presenting the official definition of environmental health issued by WHO in Sofia (1993). Subsequently a list is presented of the basic areas that have been assigned to the field of environmental health by different organizations or at various meetings, with PAHO, WHO, and Program 21 among them. From this a rather exhaustive list of areas and subareas is constructed, with the finding that all lists are, in reality, an asystematic grouping of three different components: determining factors (from the physical world), processes (types of interventions), and roles (series of administrative tasks) which can be conceived as a matrix and which allow for the description of individual activities by the environmental health services. Certain rules of operation are proposed which make it possible, through a form of algebra, to construct expressions for describing such activities and their aggregates with some precision. Thus, it becomes possible to employ a common symbolic language which can facilitate intercommunication, teaching, and research in the area of environmental health.

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