March 16, 2012

Environmental Health an Overlooked Part of the Affordable Care Act

Recent coverage of healthcare reform has focused on contraceptive coverage, but another aspect of the Affordable Care Act also deserves our attention as a potential benefit for women everywhere – attention to environmental issues that may contribute to illness.

The healthcare reform legislation included a requirement that a council on prevention be created, and that the council develop a national prevention and health promotion strategy.

The resulting strategy was released last summer, and includes a section on healthy and safe community environments, which recommends attention be paid to pollutants in our air, land, and water, and points out disparities in pollution exposure. Lead exposure, environmental triggers of asthma, safe neighborhoods for walking, and job-related hazards are all noted as environmental hazards that can make people less healthy.

From the report:

Safe air, land, and water are fundamental to a healthy community environment. Implementing and enforcing environmental standards and regulations, monitoring pollution levels and human exposures, and considering the risks of pollution in decision making can all improve health and the quality of the environment. For example, air quality standards, improved fuel efficiency and use of cleaner fuels, and transportation choices that reduce dependency on automobiles all improve air quality and health…Monitoring and research to understand the extent of people’s exposure to environmental hazards, the extent of disparities in exposures and risks from environmental hazards and the impact of these exposures on health, and identifying how to reduce exposures, especially among vulnerable populations, will inform future efforts.

Mary Ann Swissler wrote about the prevention strategy recently for the Fort Worth Weekly, including more detailed discussion and her suggestions for making environmental prevention work.

For further reading, see our Environmental and Occupational Health pages.


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