Many diseases and illnesses can be prevented by the management of environmental risks, which makes it necessary to tackle the underlying environmental causes. While this is a global fact, it is more significant in the Arab region, where environmental risks are higher and rates of development, in most countries, are slower.
During the last decades, the world has witnessed a decline in communicable diseases, combined with an immense rise in diseases triggered by poor environmental conditions. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that environmental degradation was responsible for 420,000 premature deaths in the Arab region, which represents 20 percent of all deaths. The key diseases with the largest fraction of environmental causes in the Arab countries include: Cardiovascular diseases, diarrheal diseases, respiratory infections, cancers and unintentional injuries. The main environmental risk drivers of these disease groups are: ambient and household air pollution, lack of access to clean water, land degradation and exposure to waste and harmful chemicals.
Goal 3 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) called for ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all by 2030. Achieving this goal stipulates addressing the environmental-related burden of disease, as environmental exposures are key determinants of human health across the life course. An integrated ecological public health approach is needed, which recognizes the complex interactions between biological, behavioral, environmental, social and developmental factors. Reducing the environmental burden of disease is possible through measures design and implemented in a holistic manner.
The environmental impact on human health will become more critical in the future. By 2050, it is estimated that 68 percent (about 650 million) of the Arab population will be living in urban areas, often characterized by heavy traffic, polluted air, poor housing, limited access to water and sanitation services, noise pollution, besides other challenges. Emerging issues, mainly climate change and loss of biodiversity, will exacerbate the impact of environmental factors on human health.
The AFED 2020 conference and report aims to discuss the main environmental drivers which have major impact on various aspects of human health in the Arab countries, and propose an action plan leading to a holistic implementation of the Health factor within the SDGs. This will be done within the integrated context of sustainable development, by tackling health in terms of social, economic and environmental aspects.
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AFED will be cooperating in the production of its report with a host of partners, including international organizations and major players in the environmental health domain in the region. Academic AFED members among universities across the Arab region will play key role in developing the report. The core content partners are Faculty of Health Sciences at the American University of Beirut (AUB) and the WHO Centre for Environmental Health Action (CEHA).
Lead authors include Dr. Rima Habib, Professor and Chair, Department of Environmental Health, Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS), American University of Beirut (AUB); Dr. May Jurdi, Professor of Environmental Health, FHS, AUB; Dr. May Massoud, Associate Professor of Environmental Health, FHS, AUB; Dr Hassan Dhaini, Assistant Professor of Toxicology FHS, AUB; Prof. Amr El-Sammak, professor of Marine Geology, Faculty of Science, Alexandria University, Egypt; Dr. Ahmed Gaber, Professor of Chemical Engineering, Cairo University; Dr. Djihan Hassan, Manager, Environmental Services Unit, Chemonics Egypt, Cairo, Dr. Randah R. Hamadeh, Professor of Community Medicine and Vice Dean for Graduate Studies and Research, College of Medicine and Medical Sciences, Arabian Gulf University (AGU), Bahrain; Prof. Waleed Khalil Al-Zubari, Professor and coordinator, Water Resources Management Program, College of Graduate Studies, Arabian Gulf University (AGU), Bahrain; Dr. Mohammed Falah Al-Rashidi, Director of Electricity and Water Department at The Gulf Cooperation Council - General Secretariat, Riyadh. Hayam El Sherbiny, Environmental Engineer and Research Fellow, Chemonics, Egypt; Dr. Amira M. Hamdan, Assistant Professor in Marine Microbiology, Oceanography Department, Faculty of Science, Alexandria University; Egypt