We humans have captured the environment to make our lives beautiful but through our activities and materialistic pursuits, we have made environment the biggest enemy of our health. We have ourself created an environment which has given us all leisures of life but on the other hand we have dug the walls of unhealthy livings also in it. In 1997, Department of Health Canada passed a report which stated: “The built environment is part of the overall ecosystem of our earth. It encompasses all of the buildings, spaces and products that are created, or at least significantly modified, by people.
It includes our homes, schools and workplaces, parks, business areas and roads. It extends overhead in the form of electric transmission lines, underground in the form of waste disposal sites and subway trains and across the country in the form of highways. ” (Hancock, 2000) In the contemporary society of today, built environment is the most crucial aspect of our lives. All over the world, more than 85 per cent of people are living in urban dewllings and 80 per cent of Europe and North America have urban population.
These urban settlements are creating an adverse impact on the natural environment. They are using maximum amount of the world’s resources and in return are producing maximum waste from them. Even leRiche and Milner (1971) explained in “Epidemiology as Medical Ecology,” “One of the most striking changes in the ecology of man has been the growth of cities. ” (Hancock, 2000)
The WHO Expert Committee on Environmental Health in Urban Development (WHO, 1991) pointed that: In some respects, urbanization can itself be considered to be a key variable in the health equation: when the pollution produced by a densely packed population outstrips the natural absorptive capacity of the city’s ecosystem, adverse health effects can be increased where controls are lacking or unreliable. ” (Hancock, 2000) Urban civilization cannot be termed as a natural ecosystem as it is completely built by humans encompassing almost whole globe in its vicinity and destroying the very concept of being “Natural”.
It is a complex human ecosystem which constitutes both physical environment created by humans and the social, economic, cultural and political environments in which the humans survive. In North America itself, human beings spend around 90 percent of their time inside the four confines of their doors, another 5 per cent in their cars and remaining just 5 per cent outside. And outside too, they are spending maximum time in the vicinity of the built urban environment.
It is a general trend of humans to consider the poor diet or just lack of exercise as an excuse for their bad health but they hardly consider the ill effect of the built environment with the housing characteristics, patterns in land use, transportation etc. It is evidently proved without doubt that when these different modes of our living standards are not created keeping the ecological balance into consideration, the ecosystem collapses (Jackson & Kochtitzky, Online Edition) which deteriorates our health causing stress, chronic diseases etc.
The haphazard urban development leads to the climate and atmospheric changes, pollution and ecotoxicity, resource depletion and reduced habitat and bio- diversity. (Hancock and Davies, 1997) The subject that encompasses the link between these human endeavors and the public health is known as human ecology. This human ecology can provide integrative, holistic and radical perspective on health issues. (Hancock, 2000)
Catalano in 1979 propounded that there is an utmost need that the health issues must take into consideration economic and social processes which shapes community, so as to prevent any spread of diseases. Hancock, 2000) The metapopulation theory gives an enduring account of urban ecosystems and the human aspect of the study of the urban systems can be done by the “human ecosystem model,” which deals with the social components which are the part of the human system and its connections to ecology. (Niemela, 1999)
The Mandala of Health is a model, which establishes the relationship between the natural sciences and the social sciences and gives suggestion at every level of human activity corresponding to its environment. Hancock & Perkins, 1985) Another model, which has incorporated the most important characteristic of ecosystem, is a Butterfly Model of Health. In this model, health is related to societal, economical goals and patterns and biological resources for self-renewal. This model states that number of biophysical and socioeconomic holarchic environments represented by wings, which exert an influence on the health of any individual or whole population. There are number of biological and behavioral filters that engulf the human beings.
The nature, people and these factors affect each other. People are considered as healthy when the two wings of the butterfly are in equitable balance within their own dimenisons. In other words, when the biological and other factors maintain equilibrium in nature, it will lead to the healthy individuals. (VanLeeuwen, Toews, Abernathy & Smit, 1999) Overall we can say that the health of the human beings is dependent on the health of the natural ecosystems and the planet.
Therefore it is utmost necessary to keep the urban ecosystems healthy keeping in mind both its physical and social dimensions such as health of the population with regard to the mental well being, the social well being of the urban community with regard to their social and cultural aspects, the quality of different components that make the built environment, the quality of the environment in the vicinity of the urban sphere like clean air, clean water, soil, prevention of noise pollution and the urban ecosystem on the overall ecosystem of planet.
Indicators of Population Health at the Community Level formulated a model known as the Healthy Community model. (Hancock, 2000) This model reflects on the environmental, social, economic, cultural and political factors that lead to the health of urban populations. There are three main parts, which make up the healthy community model. These are community, environment and economy, which in turn possess three qualities like livability, viability and sustainability.
These qualities are related to our living styles and we humans have to make the best use of the available resources to maintain these qualities for our healthy lives. For e. g. Traffic causes respiratory problems because it causes air pollution and noise pollution. This healthy community model provides answer to the best way possible to control traffic. The theories and models show how we can maintain and improve human and ecosystem health, which will require changes in the way the urban settlements are planned, designed and worked upon.
Canadian Public Health Association Taskforce on Human and Ecosystem Health in 1992 said in a report: “Human development and the achievement of human potential requires a form of economic activity that is environmentally and socially sustainable in this and future generations. ” (Hancock, 2000) We cannot change the urban settlements but we can sort out ways by which we can reduce the pollution, and make our environment the most beautiful and healthy place to live in.