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Public health and environment in Pakistan

Health is a state of complete well-being that directs towards maximizing an individual adaptive potential which if broadened to concept of public health concentrates on promoting and preserving health mean while reducing the burden of diseases. Health of an individual is central to the quality of life and human, being a part of environment is under peak influence and it therefore directly or indirectly determines the health status. Pakistan; a developing country is facing numerous environmental issues particularly the air and water pollution and if considered in context of this scenario so the status of public health is pretty poor and tangled in air and water related diseases as a consequence of which numerous lives are lost and many disturbed. Therefore, efforts are required to be done in all environmental aspects to tackle the existing situation and improve the life quality.

The illusion of health was defined by WHO in the most transparent means in 1948 as a state of complete physical, social and mental fitness and not merely the absence of disease. Even though the definition lacks the operational value but the fundamental concept of health portrayed was not just the truancy of any infirmity but actually the unity and harmonized interaction of soul and body with the ability of adaptation, self-management, recovery and reverse bouncing from disease, illness or related troublesome situation causing impairment or malfunctioning of some vital bodily functions. It relates to the quality of life spent and hence provides a foundation for sound wellbeing and existence. Further widening the concept to public health so it centers around the art, tact or science of protecting, improving and safeguarding the health of communities or simply of the general public which can only be practically possible via awareness, education, policy framing and research efforts with underlying agenda of prevention of diseases and injuries meanwhile assuring the creation of such conditions that promises the promotion of healthy life style and status.

Along with numerous factors like locality, genetics, level of income, education, etc environment is a vital factor influencing the health of the public. Individual being a part of the environment which is a complex formed by interaction of all the surrounding conditions and circumstances or more precisely defined as a product of association and linking of physical, economic, ecological and social factors, is extremely affected by it. Its alone ample to cause significant impact and sometimes can trigger, magnify or either reduce the impact. At the mean time it’s vital to consider that pattern of environmental influence in relation to public health varies with countries from higher to middle and lower income countries due to variation in quality of environment as a consequence of difference in national income, level of development, etc. In this context Pakistan being a Middle Income Country (MIC) offers a bleak picture of the public health in relation to the curse of the poor environmental conditions.

Existing scenario of environmental conditions in Pakistan

The scenario of present hour reflects that our beloved homeland with a population of more than 212.7 million people is inherent with wide spectrum of environmental concerns unluckily, ranging from deforestation, air pollution, pesticide misuse, waste generation, resource depletion to many more all of which are posing critical threats to our generations in current span and may create deadly outcomes in forthcoming span for the generations to come. According to a Sindh EPA peak challenges in this context are being faced by Sindh and is therefore under a burden of perpetual threat. A study conducted by Pak-EPA in collaboration with Japan International Co-operation Agency reveal that particulate matter in many of our major cities have increased 6.4 times higher than WHO guidelines. Another study conducted by World Bank highlights the drop of per capital water availability from 53,000 in 1951 to 12,000 in recent times indicating issue of water scarcity. Report of The World Bank (2014) highlights health deterioration of urban and rural populations due to pollution along with air pollution, inadequate supply of uncontaminated drinking water, noise pollution as the major environmental stressors in the country. Entire circumstances can be explained as coupled with exploding population of the country factors like economic growth keep the goals of environmental preservation neglected and unattended.


Health status of public in the country in relation to environment

Wide range of environmental hazards are surrounding an individual at all localities affecting health status. According to an estimated statistic 200 per 100,000 people find their fate to death as a consequence of exposure to environmental risks and factors (WHO Global Health Observatory). Annually 22,000 premature adult deaths 28,000 death are caused as result of outdoor and indoor air pollution respectively according to statistic provided by World Bank. Contaminated water (surface and ground water) due to presence of microbes and toxic compounds mainly because of poor sanitation and hygiene coupled with mismanagement keeps the population deprived of safe drinking water thereby creating environmental and health risks. National statistics reveal that 56 % of the total population in Pakistan has access to safe drinking water, but in rural areas safe water is hardly available to 45 % of people and as a result, 20–40 % of beds in Pakistani hospitals are occupied by patients suffering from waterborne diseases including cholera, diarrhea, dysentery, hepatitis, typhoid, etc. One third of all deaths in the country occur due to waterborne diseases. Frequently occurring communicable diseases caused to poor environmental conditions include acute respiratory disorders, malaria and diarrhea accounting for 51%, 16% and 15% respectively. Exposure to poor environmental conditions can manifest it-self in form of any non-communicable disease (NCD) in an individual during any stage of the life. The normally occurring NCDs associated with poor environmental conditions of the country includes cholera, dengue fever and measles.

Direction for improvement

Pakistan has to struggle and work hard in all dimensions of environment to improve the existing situation but the areas that need priority actions for environmental protection and promotion of healthy lifestyles includes improving the quality of drinking water, solid waste management, food security and vector control. Efforts in these respective areas of the country will automatically lead to improved and upgraded quality of life and will help in fulfilling the Sustainable Developmental Goals (SDGs) focused on reduction of environmental health threats considering needs of vulnerable groups.

Efforts should be made unless the rates of conduction of evaluation and researches, communicating and advocating for environmental protection and health preservation and most importantly molding individual behavior and sensitizing them for environmental protection that will consequently lead to improved health conditions and a better quality of life mortalities and morbidities are reduced for this key roles required to play include planning and introducing environmental health strategies, interventions and programs,


There exists a complex interaction between environment and a sound existence of life in all physical, mental and social aspects. It’s the surrounding environment that impacts health which in turn determines the quality of life therefore, public health concentrates on agenda of reducing the diseases, injuries and health malfunctioning which is only possible by harmonized environmental systems. But scenario in Pakistan where not only the economy but also environment is struggling hard, efforts are required at individual as well as community level to overcome air and water pollution and to remedy related diseases and health.


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https://www.researchgate.net/publication/47814952_Water_pollution_in_Pakistan_and_its_impact_on_public_health_-_A_review/citation/download, retrieved on 22/10/2019.

Written by: Rohma Zafar
SBK Women University Quetta, Balochistan
Environmental Sciences Department (8th semester)

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