Overview of Environmental Health

Environmental health addresses all the physical, chemical, and biological factors external to a person, and all the related factors that can potentially affect health. It is targeted towards preventing disease and creating health-supportive environments. This definition excludes behaviour not related to environment, as well as behaviour related to the social and cultural environment, and genetics.

Page last updated: 16 September 2014

Environmental health involves those aspects of public health concerned with the factors, circumstances, and conditions in the environment or surroundings of humans that can exert an influence on health and well-being.

Environmental health provides the basis of public health. Improvements in sanitation, drinking water quality, food safety, disease control, and housing conditions have been central to the significant improvement in quality of life and longevity experienced over the last hundred years. Environmental health practice addresses emerging health risks arising from the pressures that human development places on the environment.

Office of Health Protection (OHP)

Responsibility for providing advice on environmental health matters to the Minister for Health and a wide range of Commonwealth, State and Territory agencies, industry and the general community rests with the Department's Office of Health Protection.

The Office of Health Protection provides much of the project management for activities developed through the environmental Health Committee (enHealth). The enHealth website can be accessed through the environmental health links on this page.

The Office of Health Protection collaborates with numerous other Commonwealth bodies, particularly the Department of Environment and Water Resources, the Australian Greenhouse Office, the National Environmental Protection Council and the National Health and Medical Research Council. It provides advice on human health issues related to water quality, air quality, National Environmental Protection Measures, climate change and other environmental risks.

Contacting the Office of Health Protection

The Office of Health Protection (the area of the Department of Health with responsibility for environmental health) may be contacted at enHealth Secretariat.