Since the earliest times, humans have needed to be sensitive to their surroundings to survive, which means that we have an innate awareness of our environment and seek out environments with certain qualities.
First of all, humans have a strong need for safety and security and look for those attributes in their environment. We also look for physical comfort, such as an environment with the right temperature. In addition, we seek an environment that is psychologically comfortable: for example, environments that are familiar, but offer the right amount of stimulus.
Retailers and the hospitality industry know this very well and try to provide an atmosphere that creates a positive customer experience and offers three important attributes: comfort, safety, and entertainment. These attributes are equally important in healthcare as well.
Below are just a few Examples of how the Environment can Impact us
- The environment can facilitate or discourage interactions among people (and the subsequent benefits of social support). For example, an inviting space with comfortable chairs and privacy can encourage a family to stay and visit with a patient.
- The environment can influence peoples' behavior and motivation to act. For example, a dingy corridor filled with extra hospital equipment will invite staff to leave another item in the hall, whereas a clean corridor and adequate storage will encourage staff to take the time to put the item away.
- The environment can influence mood. For example, the results of several research studies reveal that rooms with bright light, both natural and artificial, can improve health outcomes such as depression, agitation, and sleep.
Importance of Environmental Health
Maintaining a healthy environment is central to increasing quality of life and years of healthy life. Globally, nearly 25 percent of all deaths and the total disease burden can be attributed to environmental factors. Environmental factors are diverse and far reaching. They include:
- Exposure to hazardous substances in the air, water, soil, and food
- Natural and technological disasters
- Physical hazards
- Nutritional deficiencies
- The built environment
Poor environmental quality has its greatest impact on people whose health status is already at risk. Therefore, environmental health must address the societal and environmental factors that increase the likelihood of exposure and disease.
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