CEM 404 Environment and Human Health (previously ENH 400)

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This course explores the science underlying environmental issues that affect human health. Course content examines the scientific nature of the linkages between environment and health, determinants of health, and how various paradigms and sets of values affect the strategies employed in negating environmental health issues. A number of case studies are examined including air pollution, endocrine disrupters, children’s environmental health, climate change, urban sprawl, and cancer.

Humans have dramatically altered the natural environment and created built environments in which to carry out their complex social lives. Since the advent of agriculture approximately 10,000 years ago, human have been moving towards increasingly more complex societies and living in more concentrated groups.  The last 150 years has seen dramatic changes to reliance on technology, fossil fuels, and the exploitation of natural resources.  During this process, a number of imbalances in natural and artificial components in these environments have created health impacts on humans.

This course explores the science underlying environmental issues that affect human health.  A secondary purpose is to contribute to development of student skills in the areas of critical thinking, and environmental science research and writing.

The course will begin with a discussion of the question, “What is health?” and of the concept of population health. It will then examine the basic scientific disciplines in environmental health, epidemiology, toxicology, risk assessment and research.

A number of case studies are examined including air pollution, endocrine disrupters, children’s’ environmental health, climate change, urban sprawl, and cancer.

The goal of this course is to give the student an understanding of environmental health from various scales, including the Canadian and global context.  The student will study the scientific nature of the linkages between environment and health, determinants of health, and strategies utilized in a wide variety of settings, and how various paradigms and sets of values affect the strategies employed in negating environmental health issues.  Through course readings, discussions and course content, students will become familiar important historical and current important topics in environmental health, approaches and processes used in the strategies employed in environmental health.

By the end of this course, the student should be able to:

  • Understand the role of a variety of perspectives on environment health issues and how they impact on the management of health for individuals, communities, and the global human population
  • Know key historical documents and events in the study of environmental health issues, and how they have shaped the current perspective in environmental health
  • Critically appraise scientific evidence and employ Medline/Pubmed and/or other databases to research an environmental health topic
  • Connect the current strategies employed in key environmental health topics to a number of case studies, and on multiple scales (local, national and global)
  • Know the key organizations and bodies which study, regulate, and manage environmental health
  • Organize and assemble research findings into a paper demonstrating a clear understanding of a relevant topic, with clear arguments and discussion
  • Understand the nature of problems associated with the current path of human society in the face of globalization and the current manner of natural resource exploitation
  • Have an intimate knowledge of one environmental health topic
  • Work as a team to develop a short policy paper

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