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Environmental health in a community results from many interconnected factors. The complex nature of a community environmental health issue will be better understood after a systematic “mapping” process.
Mapping clarifies the connections between the health of the community and the health of the environment. It shows the relationships between environmental conditions, the public policies or personal behaviors that influence the conditions, the characteristics of populations most affected by exposure and the dynamics of their exposure, and the health and quality-of-life outcomes that result from exposure.
In the framework, environmental health status is described by linking contributing factors – public policy decisions and personal behaviors – with exposure factors that describe how and where affected populations are exposed to environmental agents and the public health protection factors that are implemented by individuals or communities and reflect the collective capacity to address environmental health issues.
The framework allows users to begin with community-identified environmental health concerns, map out the components of the issue, and ultimately generate a list of indicators to move the process from theory to action (in Task 7).
The value of the framework lies in the analysis that occurs in considering the many dimensions of each environmental health issue. Working with the framework will help the assessment team identify and describe why people care about an issue, the linkages between issues of concern, relevant contributors, and opportunities for intervention.
To use the framework, select one issue of concern to the community. Then, map out the reasons why the community cares about that issue. Some potential questions to consider are:
- Why is this important?
- Why do citizens care about this issue?
- Are they concerned about health impacts and particular populations or environmental endpoints?