Recognizing the right of the Filipino people to health and a balanced healthy ecology, the Department of Health (DOH) renewed its commitment to the protection of environmental health during the September 25 celebration of World Environmental Health Day (WEHD). The DOH’s current social behavior campaign on minimum public health standards also aligns with the WEHD’s theme this year, which says: “Sa panahon ng pandemya, malusog na kapaligiran ang BIDA.”
“It is without a single grain of doubt that environmental risks pose great threats to human health now, more than ever thought before,” acknowledged Health Secretary Francisco Duque III. “The risks are rapidly growing more devastating every year. At present, we are simultaneously addressing various public health challenges, which are heavily linked to environmental factors.”
He added, “50% of the factors linked to health can be traced back to your zip code. As such, the social and physical environment of every individual is urgent and an important factor to be addressed.”
Sec. Duque emphasized that the seven areas of environmental health, such as water supply and sanitation (WASH), air quality, solid waste management, chemical safety, occupational safety, and climate change are essential components of the DOH’s current minimum public health standards against COVID-19.
WASH practices, such as handwashing and the distribution of hygiene kits, are an example of how environmental health practices can help prepare people against the pandemic. Poor sanitation and waste management increases the risk of disease spread. There are numerous cases where environmental health conditions can impact public health.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has been supportive of the government’s actions towards protecting environmental health, such as the 2018 Presidential Proclamation 595 and the development of the National Environmental Health Action Plan (NEHAP) 2017-2022.
“With this proclamation, we are confident that environmental management issues that impact the health of Filipinos are given the utmost attention and priority by all concerned stakeholders,” said Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe, WHO representative in the Philippines and Officer-in-Charge. “Universal coverage and environmental health go hand in hand; they are the foundation of resilient health systems and society. This year’s theme is truly a timely topic that understands the role of a healthy environment in disease prevention and pandemic control.”
Sec. Duque enjoined the public to help fight COVID-19 by securing a healthy and sound environment and observing the health practices of the BIDA Solusyon campaign: Bawal walang mask, I-sanitize ang kamay at Iwas hawa sa mga bagay, Dumistansya ng isang metro, at Alamin ang totoong impormasyon.
“Addressing our health and environment concerns is not a battle of the DENR (the Department of Environment and Natural Resources), the DOH, or the IACEH (Inter-Agency Committee on Environmental Health) alone, it is but a shared responsibility of everyone,” said Sec. Duque. “With your commitment to making a difference in health, we will not only heal and recover, we will certainly recover as one.”