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Your Health Depends on Where You Live

Bill Davenhall presented the formula for good health as “genetics + lifestyle + environment = [health] risks” in his October 2009 TEDMED talk. The basic principle is for one to improve overall health, one must reduce health risks. Physicians routinely ask patients numerous questions about genetics and lifestyle, such as family, medication, surgical, and allergy histories, but rarely, if ever, consider the environmental component, a term Davenhall coins as geomedicine.

The environmental component is difficult to define, but Davenhall boils it down to places you have lived and where you typically spend most of you time (at work, traveling, at home, etc.). Current research and established databases measure a multitude of environmental factors, and doctors have the ability to overlay maps of patients’ environments with, for example, toxic release inventories monitored by the EPA. Doctors can then make inferences about susceptibility, schedule appropriate screenings and tests, and monitor symptoms for geo-specific health conditions like breast cancer or lung disease. In addition, they can provide patients with recommendations for reducing environmental risks.

Davenhall proposes adding a “place history” to the physician questionnaires and incorporating this data into electronic health records. This will allow for easy analysis and help health professionals and researchers understand larger environmental trends and risks and, in turn, work to mitigate these risks to improve the health of all people.

How do you think your past environments and current environment are influencing your health?

Text Source: Ted.com; Video Source: YouTube; Photo Source: Flickr

  • Seoyeon kim

    As a person who used to work for more than 10 hours a day, sitting at the desk, environmental health naturally reminds me of health related to work environment. Most office workers suffer from pain in neck, back, and wrist. Many factory workers are still at risk of be exposed to harmful chemicals. There should be measures taken to improve environmental health in work places.

  • liran2016

    Yes, I totally agree with this point that your health depends on where you live. I watched this talk before and was inspired a lot. Now, Beijing, China is heavily smoky. Most of the people in Beijing have to wear mask, though it can only prevent large particulate matter from entering lung. I really worry about the health of newborn baby in Beijing because of their vulnerable immune systems and poor health.