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Your Environment. Your Health.

WHO Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health Sciences

Collaboration between the World Health Organization and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences: Highlights from 30 years of Partnership

Building on over three decades of collaboration , NIEHS was designated as a World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health Sciences in September, 2013. The Collaborating Centre provides a focal point and resource for the institute to fulfill its strategic goals in global environmental health. This more formal partnership with WHO will provide NIEHS with new opportunities for translating research findings into effective public health interventions to improve health around the world.

NIEHS will assist WHO by promoting international cooperation among environmental health research institutes around the world; promoting global awareness of emerging issue in environmental health; and supporting education and training efforts in environmental and occupational health sciences.

Environmental Health focus areas of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health Sciences

Activities of the Collaborating Centre will center around the following five "focus areas" of environmental health concern:

Children's Environmental Health

two children playing in water
(Photo courtesy of Wikimedia)

Environmental exposures pose a serious health risk to millions of children worldwide, especially to those living in low-and middle-income countries.  The extensive research program in children’s environmental health at NIEHS has increased understanding of the unique vulnerability of developing children to harmful environmental exposures and helped to guide the development of protective measures for children in the United States and around the world.  By working with other WHO Collaborating Centres in Children’s Environmental Health as well as other leading research institutions, NIEHS will continue to inform decision makers about the importance of preventing children’s exposures and help reduce children’s health risks.

Climate Change and Human Health

sign that says no swimming
(Photo courtesy of Wikimedia)

In 2008, WHO Director General declared that climate change is “one of the greatest challenges of our time”.  NIEHS is working with WHO to increase awareness of the link between climate and human health and to help inform health ministries and health professionals around the world about how to protect people from health threats related to climate change.

NIEHS in collaboration with WHO hosted a side event - Health Adaptation in the US and Around the World - at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties in Poland in November 2013.

NIEHS partnered with WHO to convene an expert consultation on potential health indicators for sustainable development goals in non-health sectors in Geneva, Switzerland on May 17-18, 2012. The reports and recommendations produced by this meeting were presented by WHO at the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Brazil in June 2012.

Measuring Health Gains from Sustainable Development (5MB)

Thematic briefings:

Developmental Origins of Health and Disease

pregnant woman with stethoscope on stomach
(Photo courtesy of NIEHS)

The global burden of disease has been shifting from mostly communicable to non-communicable diseases over the past several decades. Non-communicable diseases now cause 60% of all global deaths. NIEHS research is building understanding of how environmental insults during early life stages (from conception through early childhood) can have impacts on health and disease risks not just in later childhood but decades later during adult life.  NIEHS is partnering with WHO to help inform global health practitioners about this emerging area of science.

Developmental Origins of Health and Non-Communicable Diseases

A side event to the Prenatal Programming and Toxicology III Workshop in Paris, France, in July 2012 brought together scientific experts on the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHaD) with leaders of the global health organizations devoted to reducing the burden of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs). The objective: explore ways to incorporate prenatal and early life preventive measures to reduce environmental contributions to NCDs.

As part of a series of joint activities on Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs), NIEHS co-sponsored with WHO a side event at the third International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM3 ) in Nairobi, Kenya, on September 16, 2012.

Report of the International Conference on Chemicals Management on the work of its third session


man standing amidst trash
(Photo courtesy of Wikimedia)

As the global electronic waste (e-waste) stream grows, it is becoming increasingly important to understand how exposure to e-waste affects human health. Components used to make electronic devices, such as laptops, cell phones, and televisions, contain a variety of metals and chemicals that can harm health when people are exposed through handling or just living near e-waste streams.  NIEHS will work with WHO to raise understanding of the importance of controlling exposures to e-wastes among health practitioners and decision makers.

Indoor Air Pollution

woman holding infant and cooking over fire
(Photo courtesy of World Health Organization)

An estimated 3 billion people use biofuels, such as dung, brush and wood, as their main sources of energy for cooking and heating.  Exposures to smoke from burning biomass cause nearly 4 million deaths per year and many other health effects, including pneumonia. Women and young children are disproportionately affected by the pollution. NIEHS and WHO are partnering to raise awareness about the urgency of reducing exposures to household air pollution through cookstove replacements and promote research and research translation that can improve the effectiveness of replacement programs around the world.

Chemical Risk Assessment Network

The World Health Organization estimates that “more than 25% of the global burden of disease is thought to be linked to environmental factors, including chemical exposures. The widespread use of chemicals has led to an increasing demand for better protection of workers, public health and the environment.”  In an effort to better evaluate and minimize exposure to toxic chemicals, WHO created the WHO Chemical Risk Assessment Network. The network aims to bring together representatives of government agencies, academics and researchers and nongovernmental organizations to address the public health risks posed by chemicals.  Network participants collaborate on projects across borders, provide a platform to disseminate new findings and support the development of training focused on Risk Assessment.

NIEHS is supporting the Chemical Risk Assessment Network through the creation of network communications materials aimed at sharing the latest research with a global audience. NIEHS is able to share information and research that informs risk assessment activities and increases knowledge of environmental health issues globally.

Pan-American Health Organization

As the regional representative of WHO in the Americas, the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) is an important partner for NIEHS.  NIEHS collaborates with PAHO on a number of activities.

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