Environment Meets Health, Again

Environment Meets Health, Again - EDITORIAL Environment...

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www.sciencemag.org SCIENCE VOL 315 9 MARCH 2007 1337 CREDIT: HARRISON SHULL / GETTY EDITORIAL Environment Meets Health, Again THE SEEMINGLY INSURMOUNTABLE HEALTH CHALLENGE IN THE 19TH CENTURY WAS infectious disease. In the 21st century it will be a mix of global warming, poverty, and infectious and chronic diseases. Life expectancy in the United States is now twice that of the 19th century, and environmental health—healthier food, cleaner water, better places to live (the “built environment”)—has been the greatest contributor. Can environmental health address 21st-century challenges? Environmental health in the 19th century was practiced by physicians and scientists, but, importantly, also by business people, engineers, lawyers, architects, politicians, and many others outside health and science. The primary tools for health improvement were infrastructure and sanitation. For example, it was Frederick Law Olmsted, the man behind urban landscapes like New York City’s Central Park, who headed the Sanitary Commission during the Civil War that saved thousands of lives. Over the past 50 years, environmental science and practice have become specialized but also fragmented. The U.S. Environmental Pro-
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