Environmental Health

Following decades of rapid economic growth, environmental risk factors have become a major source of morbidity and mortality in China and other low- and middle-income countries. With improvements in economic status and lessons learned from the environmental policies and challenges faced by other nations, China has an opportunity to address its environmental health challenges and become an international leader in global environmental health. The Global Health Research Center undertakes studies on environmental health hazards and approaches for reducing them. For example, indoor air quality is a major issue in China because most of China’s rural population and a declining proportion of its urban population burn wood and coal for cooking and heating. Indoor air pollution is responsible for increased rates of cardiovascular disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Over 400,000 premature deaths occur annually due to exposure to indoor pollutants.  More research is needed to document the extent and geographical concentration of this health hazard, as well as to test the effectiveness of various interventions (e.g. design and distribution of more efficient stoves).

Program Highlights

Climate Change Impacts on Workplace Extremes: Health Risk Estimates and Adaptive Options

Heat is an often-overlooked hazard of many workplaces, both indoors and outdoors, and in developed as well as developing countries. In Australia, workers are exposed to dangerous levels of heat in agriculture, in the emergency services and in the construction industry among others. This project has recruited workers from a variety of such workplaces, and monitored their personal experiences, backed up with urine samples to test for dehydration. We plan to compare hot weeks and in relatively cool weeks in two consecutive summers. In addition, we have surveyed workplace policies that protect workers' health in hot conditions. We expect to demonstrate the importance of such policies, and to argue that they will become even more important as the climate warms in coming decades.