Integrating Air-related Health Surveillance into Air Quality Management: Perceptions and Practicalities
Keywords:Air quality management, health, monitoring and evaluation
Health surveillance is presently not an integral part of air quality management in South Africa, although ambient air pollution standards are derived from health effects of personal exposure. In a survey to air quality officials and environmental health practitioners (n = 361 ), respondents were asked to comment on a discussion document regarding ways to put health onto the air quality management agenda. Less than 7% of the sample (n = 23) responded, the most likely reasons being: overloaded staff; lack of knowledge about air quality-related health; and apathy. All respondents acknowledged their support of the concepts, one suggested inclusion of PM25 and airspora over and above criteria pollutants, and one mentioned use of an indicator 'number of complaints of visual air pollution and odour'. In general, it would appear that the links between air quality and health risks are not well understood and, more importantly, assessing airrelated health outcomes with respect to air quality is not a part of Local Municipalities' Integrated Development Plans. To motivate for necessary changes in Health Information Systems and data management, evidence of valuable application is required. Without readily available health facility and local municipality-specific data on respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses, it will prove difficult to track whether implemented air pollution mitigation measures will have positive health impacts.
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