WHO Assessment: Health Problems due to Social Differences

Socially disadvantaged population groups in Europe are most frequently affected by environmental pollution and housing conditions. This is the conclusion reached by the Institute for Public Health and Nursing Research (IPP) in a data analysis commissioned by WHO.

"Even if there have been overall improvements in recent years, avoidable social disparities remain," sums up Professor Bolte, who advises the World Health Organization (WHO).
The health scientist and her team have analyzed data across Europe to assess the extent of social inequalities in environmental exposures and housing conditions. The Department of Social Epidemiology at the Institute of Public Health and Nursing Research (IPP), University of Bremen, operates as the WHO Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health Inequalities and conducts research on environmental justice.

Social Inequalities in Housing Quality and Access to Clean Water

Now, a new series of fact sheets has been released that summarize key findings from the monitoring and provide recommendations for action to reduce exposures.
The first seven fact sheets, published by the World Health Organization on February 16, 2022, describe the current situation of social inequalities in various categories of environmental strain and housing conditions using several social indicators and for up to 36 countries.
For example, the study evaluated whether housing can be heated well, whether there are problems with dampness, how many square meters are available to residents, how well the housing is equipped with sanitary facilities, and whether there is access to clean drinking water.

"Significant social disparities still exist. Access to a basic supply of drinking water, sanitary facilities, and a warm, dry dwelling is a problem for population groups living in poverty in many countries in Europe," emphasizes Professor Gabriele Bolte. "During the pandemic, we also experienced in Germany how important adequate housing size and accessible public green spaces are in the residential environment."

Important Basis for Measures to Improve Living Conditions

Health reporting on social inequalities in environment and health provides an important basis for shaping measures to reduce environmental pollution, improve living conditions, and promote environment-related health.
These activities relate directly to five of the United Nations' 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These include health & well-being, clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, reduced inequalities, and sustainable cities and communities.

WHO Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health Inequalities

As a WHO Collaborating Centre, the Department of Social Epidemiology supports WHO with its expertise in the research area of social inequalities in environment and health (environmental equality). This includes, in particular, monitoring the extent, spatial patterns, and temporal trends of health-related environmental inequalities in Europe, and developing a conceptual framework for estimating health consequences of socially unequally distributed environmental pressures and resources.

Further Information:



Prof. Dr. Gabriele Bolte
Managing Director
Head of the Department of Social Epidemiology
Institute of Public Health and Nursing Research (IPP)
Faculty of Human and Health Sciences
University of Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218 68820 (front office -68821)
Email: gabriele.bolteprotect me ?!uni-bremenprotect me ?!.de

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