A recent WHO/Europe report specifically examines the role of the environment in health that focuses on animal-mediated diseases (in which animals serve as “vehicles” for infection). They also discuss the expansion to include some non-communicable conditions, such as those caused by chemicals that may contaminate animal-sourced food and injuries caused by contact with animals, such as bites.

The traditional focus of public health has been on infectious diseases such as zoonoses, illnesses brought on by bacteria resistant to antibiotics, and conditions brought on by contaminated food.

The Different Role of the Environment Affecting One’s Health

As a reservoir

The environment serves as a reservoir where living things and nutrients are carried and accumulated. This includes pathogens, bacterial species and genes for antibiotic resistance, organic and inorganic residues, pesticides, and metals.

As a basis for chemical and ecological processes 

Environmental factors serve as the foundation for chemical and ecological processes that give rise to a wide range of ecosystem services for people, including those necessary for their health. Environmental mechanisms convert chemicals into something highly absorbable by the body and can build up over time. For instance, contaminated food forms in the setting of disease.

Both animals and people can experience good or bad environmental health consequences.