This section explains why population information is important for environmental health.
Population data for environmental health monitoring
Population data is useful for environmental health monitoring. We can look at population data alongside environmental data, to consider how much impact an environmental hazard might have on a particular population. We can look at:
- how many people are at risk
- characteristics of the population that might make them more at risk from environmental hazards – such as age, ethnic group, socioeconomic status, and health status.
For example, looking at the elderly population alongside the numbers of very cold days in each region helps determine where excess winter deaths might occur most often.
In New Zealand, the census is the major source of information about our population. You can find more information about the population in this section.
The link between environment and people
The environment is affected by the people that live in it, and people are affected by the environment in which they live.
People can affect the environment, such as changing land use through agriculture and urbanisation. The environment can affect human health, often as a result of human-caused changes to the environment. For example, burning fossil fuels like wood, coal and oil increases the amount of air pollution, which can affect our health.
People and the environment we live in are part of the same large ecosystem – Earth. In ecosystems, living things interact with each other and affect each other. A ‘push’ in one part of the system results in a ‘pull’ in another part.
Figure 1: The environment affects people and people affect the environment
Read more about the population groups more at risk from environmental hazards on the 'who is more at risk' webpage.