University of Malta

Study-Unit Description
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TITLE Environmental Health

LEVEL 05 - Postgraduate Modular Diploma or Degree Course


DEPARTMENT Public Health

DESCRIPTION This study-unit is designed to tackle a number of major environmental health issues, examines sources, routes, media, and health outcomes associated with biological, chemical and physical agents in the environment. It will cover how the agents affect disease, water quality, air quality, etc. in community and also in the occupational setting. This study unit will introduce students to the current legal framework, policies, practices and skills associated with environmental health issues and intended to improve public health.

Study-unit Aims:

This unit is designed to impart to students a broader knowledge and understanding of the main issues in environmental health in order to be able to consider and address these issues in practice in the interest of public health. Research methods and policy making in environmental health will be outlined. Skills in health impact assessment and disaster management will be transferred.

Students will be introduced to the main legal and regulatory instruments including major policies in various areas of environmental health (with particular reference to Malta).

In this unit students will also appreciate the multi-disciplinary nature of environmental health concerns and the need to work closely with external agencies (transport, environment, housing, etc). Regional and global issues of sustainability and climate change will also be addressed.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

1. Understand the significance of the effects of the environment on human health and well-being; be familiar with the main terms and definitions used in environmental health; understand the environmental determinants of health; be familiar with major events in the history of environmental health; and identify current issues in the environmental health field;

2. Obtain an overview of environmental epidemiology: describe three major historical events in environmental epidemiology, provide examples of epidemiologic tools used in environmental health and identify types of associations found between environmental hazards and health outcomes; list study designs used in environmental epidemiology;

3. Understand hazard and risk; be familiar with the main terms and definitions in environmental toxicology; describe methods for human exposure assessment and discuss procedures for risk assessment;

4. Understand the use of legislation and standardization in environmental control; describe key environmental health regulatory agencies at the international, regional and national level; indicate principles that guide environmental policy development; be familiar with environmental laws and policies; be aware of need to address inequalities in environmental health; list steps in the policy-making process; understand the concept of (environmental) health in all policies;

5. Define and state the differences between ionizing radiation and nonionizing radiation; describe sources and types of ionizing and nonionizing radiation, discuss health effects of exposure to ionizing and nonionizing radiation; describe major incidents in which the population was exposed unexpectedly to ionizing radiation. Understand local regulatory framework for radiation control;

6. Describe sources of potable water; understand what is meant by the hydrological cycle; list hazardous substances that may be found in drinking water; describe how water is made safe for human consumption; discuss hazards to the aquatic environment associated with environmental pollution. Be familiar with regional and local legislation, institutional set up and monitoring programmes for water quality and sanitation;

7. Describe historically important air pollution episodes; list health effects associated with air pollution,describe potential hazards linked to indoor air, enumerate the typical components of urban ambient air pollution and discuss the concept of global warming;

Be familiar with regional and local legislation, institutional set up and air quality monitoring programmes;

8. Understand and discuss the significance of the occupational environment for health, health impacts of occupational hazards - physical and psychological effects; prevention of occupationally related disease. Be familiar with local legislation and institutional set up in occupational health;

9. Understand noise as an environmental health hazard; its measurement, effects on the human ear and other health effects besides annoyance factor. Recognise various sources of noise - occupational, environmental noise, mitigation and control even in the local context;

10. Define health impact assessment (HIA), understand HIA as a tool to aid decision making. Be familiar with various levels of HIA, how these are conducted (list steps in a HIA and key players) using practical examples;

Understand and discuss Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA);

11. Be familiar with major disaster management and chemical incident management through theory and a desk-top exercise. Local context application;

12. Understand principles of sustainability;

13. Recognise the health effects of climate change and global warming; understand mitigation and adaptation and apply this knowledge to the local context.

2. Skills:
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

(i) Apply knowledge of study areas listed above in practical day to day environmental (public) health setting as the need may arise;

(ii) understand the association between a number of environmental hazards (water and sanitation, air and water quality, housing, noise, chemicals etc.) and human health outcomes;

(iii) refer to appropriate legislation and regulations/laws in the control of environmental health hazards;

(iv) select appropriate environmental epidemiological study design, data sources and methods used to study associations between various environmental hazards and health outcomes;

(iii) recognise the need for a (environmental) health in all policies approach and the importance of addressing environmental determinants of health through inter-sectoral collaboration;

(iv) perform a desk-top health impact assessment of a project or plan;

(v) understand how an environmental impact assessment (EIA) is conducted - addressing health impacts through EIA;

(vi) participate in a desk-top disaster management exercise.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

Main Text:
Essentials of environmental health. Robert H. Friis. 2013
ISBN-13: 978-1284026337

Handbook of environmental health and safety: principles and practices/Herman Koren, Michael Bisesi.1996

Supplementary reading:
Environmental Epidemiology. Edited by Paul Wilkinson. 2006 (Understanding Public Health Series - Open University Press)

Environmental Health Policy. David Ball. 2006. (Understanding Public Health Series - Open University Press)

STUDY-UNIT TYPE Lecture, Ind Study & Ind Online Learning

Assessment Component/s Resit Availability Weighting
Examination (2 Hours) Yes 100%

LECTURER/S John Attard Kingswell
Maria Attard
Nadine Axisa
Charles Bonnici
Simone Borg
Paul Brejza
Iro Cali Corleo
John Paul Cauchi
Roberto Debono
Francis Farrugia
Kevin Gatt
Mark Gauci
Julian Mamo
Denis Vella Baldacchino
Karen Vincenti (Co-ord.)
Rachel Xuereb

The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the study-unit description above applies to the academic year 2016/7, if study-unit is available during this academic year, and may be subject to change in subsequent years.

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