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USGS Environmental health science strategy: providing environmental health science for a changing world: public review release

Open-File Report 2012-1069

Public Review Release - Feedback on this report will be accepted through August 1, 2012. Please see index page for feedback instructions.
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Abstract

America has an abundance of natural resources. We have bountiful clean water, fertile soil, and unrivaled national parks, wildlife refuges, and public lands. These resources enrich our lives and preserve our health and wellbeing. These resources have been maintained because of our history of respect for their value and an enduring commitment to their vigilant protection. Awareness of the social, economic, and personal value of the health of our environment is increasing. The emergence of environmentally driven diseases caused by environmental exposure to contaminants and pathogens is a growing concern worldwide. New health threats and patterns of established threats are affected by both natural and anthropogenic changes to the environment. Human activities are key drivers of emerging (new and re-emerging) health threats. Societal demands for land and natural resources, a better quality of life, improved economic prosperity, and the environmental impacts associated with these demands will continue to increase. Natural earth processes, climate trends, and related climatic events will add to the environmental impact of human activities. These environmental drivers will influence exposure to disease agents, including viral, bacterial, prion, and fungal pathogens, parasites, natural earth materials, toxins and other biogenic compounds, and synthetic chemicals and substances. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) defines environmental health science broadly as the interdisciplinary study of relations among the quality of the physical environment, the health of the living environment, and human health. The interactions among these three spheres are driven by human activities, ecological processes, and natural earth processes; the interactions affect exposure to contaminants and pathogens and the severity of environmentally driven diseases in animals and people. This definition provides USGS with a framework for synthesizing natural science information from across the Bureau and providing it to environmental, natural resource, agricultural, and public-health managers. The USGS is a Federal science agency with a broad range of natural science expertise relevant to environmental health. USGS provides scientific information and tools as a scientific basis for management and policy decision making. USGS specializes in science at the environment-health interface, by characterizing the processes that affect the interaction among the physical environment, the living environment, and people, and the resulting factors that affect ecological and human exposure to disease agents. This report describes a 10-year strategy that encompasses the portfolio of USGS environmental health science. It summarizes national environmental health priorities that USGS is best suited to address, and will serve as a strategic framework for USGS environmental health science goals, actions, and outcomes for the next decade. Implementation of this strategy is intended to aid coordination of USGS environmental health activities and to provide a focal point for disseminating information to stakeholders. The "One Health" paradigm advocated by the World Health Organization (WHO, 2011), and the American Veterinary Medicine Association (AVMA, 2008), among others, is based on a general recognition that the health of humans, animals, and the environment are inextricably linked. Thus, successful efforts to protect that health will require increased interdisciplinary research and increased communication and collaboration among the broader scientific and health community. This strategy is built upon that paradigm. The vision, mission, and five cornerstone goals of the USGS Environmental Health Science Strategy were developed with significant input from a wide range of stakeholders. Vision - The USGS is a premier source of the environmental health science needed to safeguard the health of the environment, fish, wildlife, and people. Mission - The mission of USGS in environmental health science is to contribute scientific information to environmental, natural resource, agricultural, and public-health managers, who use that science to support sound decision making. USGS provides the science to: * Goal 1: Identify, prioritize, and detect contaminants and pathogens of emerging environmental concern. * Goal 2: Reduce the impact of contaminants on the environment, fish, wildlife, and people. * Goal 3: Reduce the impact of pathogens on the environment, fish, wildlife, and people. * Goal 4: Discover the complex interactions and combined effects of exposure to contaminants and pathogens. * Goal 5: Prepare for and respond to environmental impacts and related health threats of natural and anthropogenic disasters. Goals 1 through 4 are intended to provide science to address environmental health threats in a logical order, from informing prevention and preparedness, to supporting systematic management response to environmental health issues. Goal 4 addresses the interaction among contaminants and pathogens, an issue of emerging concern in environmental health science. Goal 5 acknowledges the fact that natural and anthropogenic disasters can cause immediate and prolonged adverse environmental health threats. This strategy proposes that USGS take the following strategic science actions to achieve each of the five goals of this strategy: Goal 1: Identify, prioritize, and detect contaminants and pathogens of emerging environmental concern. * Strategic Science Action 1. - Prioritize contaminants and pathogens of emerging concern to guide research, detection, and management activities. * Strategic Science Action 2. - Conduct surveillance and monitoring to provide early warning of emerging health threats. * Strategic Science Action 3. - Develop approaches and tools that identify vulnerable environmental settings, ecosystems, and species. Goal 2: Reduce the impact of contaminants on the environment, fish, wildlife, and people. * Strategic Science Action 1. - Systematically characterize the sources, occurrence, transport and fate of environmental contaminants to guide efforts to manage and mitigate contamination. * Strategic Science Action 2. - Evaluate the threats of contamination on the health of the environment, fish, wildlife, and people, and inform the associated management and protection efforts. * Strategic Science Action 3. - Characterize potential human exposure to support establishment of health-based standards or guidelines and contamination-reduction efforts. Goal 3: Reduce the impact of pathogens on the environment, fish, wildlife, and people. * Strategic Science Action 1. - Determine the biotic and abiotic factors that control the ecology of infectious diseases affecting natural populations of aquatic and terrestrial species and potential transmission to other animals and humans. * Strategic Science Action 2. - Establish how natural and anthropogenic environmental changes affect the distribution and severity of infectious diseases in natural populations of aquatic and terrestrial species and potential transmission to other animals and humans. * Strategic Science Action 3. - Develop surveillance systems to identify changing patterns of disease activity in priority geographic areas. Goal 4: Discover the complex interactions and combined effects of exposure to contaminants and pathogens. * Strategic Science Action 1. - Identify how exposure to one class of disease agents (contaminants or pathogens) can make an organism more susceptible to effects from exposure to the other class of disease agents. * Strategic Science Action 2. - Implement interdisciplinary studies that characterize the effects of combined exposure to pathogens and contaminants. Goal 5: Prepare for and respond to the environmental impacts and related health threats of natural and anthropogenic disasters. * Strategic Science Action 1. - Establish a formal interdisciplinary science capability to rapidly assess the environmental health risks associated with disasters. * Strategic Science Action 2. - Enhance methods to anticipate, prepare for, and identify environmental, ecological, and related health impacts of future disasters. This strategy is one of seven USGS science strategies developed concurrently: * Climate and Land Use Change * Core Science Systems * Ecosystems * Energy and Mineral Resources * Environmental Health * Natural Hazards * Water. This strategy describes how USGS will address the highest priority environmental health issues facing the Nation. The ultimate intended outcome of this science strategy is prevention and reduction of adverse impacts to the quality of the environment, the health of our living resources, and human health. Communication with, and receiving input from, partners and stakeholders regarding their science needs is essential for successful implementation of this strategy. It is incumbent on USGS to reach out to all stakeholders to ensure that USGS efforts are focused on the highest priority environmental health issues and that products are provided in the most timely and usable form to all those who can use them. USGS must reach out to the scientific community, internally and externally, to ensure that our efforts are integrated with and take full advantage of the activities of others.

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
USGS Environmental health science strategy: providing environmental health science for a changing world: public review release
Series title:
Open-File Report
Series number:
2012-1069
Year Published:
2012
Language:
English
Publisher:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Reston, VA
Description:
vi, 37 p.
Online Only (Y/N):
Y