What are the most important health and environmental risk factors of 2016?
There have been several recent surveys that have identified the top health and environmental risk factors of today. According to the Global Risk Perception Survey of 900 experts, the top global environmental risks are:
Notice that failure of climate change adaptation and water crises are on both lists. The World Health Organization (WHO) recently identified the leading health risk factors in higher income countries as, in order:
Notice that, with the exception of occupational risks, all of these are risks of self rather than risks created by others. Also notice that these risks can be managed by one’s self. The WHO also recently identified the leading global environmental health factors as:
Finally, the United States EPA recently named indoor air exposures as the top environmental health risk. Looking over these lists, several thoughts come to mind. I am fairly sure that 10 to 20 years ago chemically-contaminated sites and industrial water pollution would have been on some of the lists. Environmental risk concerns are transitioning toward issues of a broader scale, such as climate change, the availability of water, regional air impacts, and community/population health impacts. Also, the risk factors and priorities of higher income nations, such as the U.S., are very different from those of much of the world. And lastly, the biggest sources of health risk in the U.S. appear to be mostly related to self-related factors that a person can control and/or reduce. These findings suggest that a shift and refocus of environmental risk management policies and actions could be more effective in improving public health.