The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being. The concept of environment has also evolved and, today, indicates the network of relationships between living communities, including man, and the physical environment, making the binomial environment / health inseparable.
The environment, pollution and changes in the climate all play a priority role in the well-being and health of populations. WHO estimates that 1 in 4 deaths worldwide are attributable to environmental factors that contribute to a wide spectrum of diseases and infirmities with greater effects on vulnerable sections of the population, specifically children and the elderly. The global strategy for health, the environment and climate change provides for a convergent and multisectoral approach in order to ensure safe and accessible environments according to principles of equity and sustainability.
The Istituto Superiore di Sanità (ISS, the National Institute of Health in Italy) is at the forefront of identifying and promoting adequate strategies to prevent the risk of diseases due to environmental factors and to transfer scientific evidence into public health programs and policies. The activities carried out in this area concern the quality of water, soil, air and indoor environments, waste management, the effects of emerging pollutants and climate change on ecosystems, human exposure to environmental agents and their toxicity mechanisms, and the health effects of exposure to environmental risk factors. Research activities converge towards an integrated evaluation approach that includes the physical, social, economic, ecological and cultural environment of the territorial context in order to promote human health and environmental sustainability according to the integrated objectives of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.