WHO / Diego Rodriguez
A man collects water from the Ganges, Varanasi, India
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Environmental health


    Healthier environments could prevent almost one quarter of the global burden of disease. The COVID-19 pandemic is a further reminder of the delicate relationship between people and our planet.

    Clean air, stable climate, adequate water, sanitation and hygiene, safe use of chemicals, protection from radiation, healthy and safe workplaces, sound agricultural practices, health-supportive cities and built environments, and a preserved nature are all prerequisites for good health.


    13.7 million of deaths per year in 2016, amounting to 24% of the global deaths, are due to modifiable environmental risks. This means that almost 1 in 4 of total global deaths are linked to environment conditions. 

    Disease agents and exposure pathways are numerous and unhealthy environmental conditions are common, with the result that most disease and injury categories are being impacted. Noncommunicable diseases, including ischaemic heart disease, chronic respiratory diseases and cancers are the most frequent disease outcomes caused.  Injuries, respiratory infections and stroke follow closely.

    WHO response

    Our activities to advance the global agenda for building healthier environments for healthier populations include:

    1. providing leadership on guiding important transitions such as in energy and transport, and stimulating good governance in health and environment;
    2. ensuring knowledge generation and dissemination for evidence-based norms and efficient solutions, steering research and monitoring change in risks to health and implementation of solutions;
    3. supporting capacity building and mechanisms for scaling up action in countries, and
    4. building capacity for emergency preparedness and response in case of environment-related incidents, and provide related guidance on environmental health services and occupational health and safety.


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    Latest publications

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    Addressing climate change: supplement to the WHO water, sanitation and hygiene strategy 2018-2025

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