OTTAWA, Dec. 7 /CNW Telbec/ - The health and well-being of Canadians could be greatly improved by adopting some of the environmental health approaches taken in Australia, Sweden and California, according to a Conference Board of Canada report, Critical Steps for Canada: Environmental Health Lessons Across Borders.
"Canadians are concerned about the effects of the environment on their health, and calls for action to address environmental health in Canada have come from many individuals and groups," said Diana MacKay, Director, Education and Health. "Governments in Sweden, Australia and California have made environmental health a priority and use a variety of levers - including legislation and regulation, strategies and targets, and education - to address their environmental health challenges.
"The efforts in Australia, Sweden and California demonstrate that leadership and coordinated action are critical steps to address these concerns."
Environmental health issues are extremely complex and typically have not received sufficient attention in Canada, although positive steps have been taken in recent years, such as improvements in monitoring air and water quality. The current estimate of the environmental burden of disease in Canada (the portion of preventable disease attributable to the environment) is 13 per cent - significant enough to warrant action.
Canada can learn the following lessons from each of the three jurisdictions studied in this report:
- A national strategy in Australia provides a unified,
across-government approach to environmental health, and has
stimulated the development of state-wide projects. Performance is
monitored through a regular review of the progress against the
- Health-based environmental objectives and targets in Sweden create
focus and a framework for measuring progress. Sweden's leading
environmental health issues are also rigourously researched and
- In California, an environmental health surveillance system is under
development to provide an avenue to monitor common environmental
health hazards related to water and air pollution. When fully
implemented, this system will play an essential role in reducing
environmentally-related chronic diseases, through the development of
targeted programs and services.
The report concludes that a pan-Canadian environmental health strategy could help create alignment and coordinated action among the key stakeholder groups, including governments, businesses, non-governmental organizations, labour unions and research organizations. The strategy should set clear and achievable goals, objectives and targets and ensure that these are measured, monitored and reported on, and supported by effective legislation and regulations.
The report is published by the Conference Board's Canadian Centre for Environmental Health (CCEH), which is an inter-sectoral and interdisciplinary network of public sector, private sector and non-profit organizations. The CCEH will be conducting further work in the area of developing a pan-Canadian approach.
SOURCE Conference Board of Canada
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