Human Health and the Environment

Just as our actions and choices affect the environment, the health of the planet influences our personal health and well-being.

Human health is intimately linked to the health of the environment. Due to rapidly increasing impacts on our planet, threats to human health are escalating.  Among these threats are an increasing incidence of cancer caused by pollution of air, land and water and outbreaks of infectious disease caused by habitat disruption.

The Human Health and the Environment Program focuses on training students in the science of human biology as it relates to environmental impacts on human health and offers an integrated approach to help humans thrive on this rapidly changing planet.

Environmental Health professionals are concerned with ensuring safety of what we eat, drink, breathe and touch. They study effects of environmental contaminants on human health, and they monitor and respond to outbreaks of disease.  This program offers a unique perspective on humans as part of our ecosystem, and promotes a much-needed holistic approach to maintaining and preserving human health.

Focus on human health and the environment is an important part of our history.  Edward Livingston Trudeau came to Paul Smith’s to “cure” from tuberculosis, and nearby Saranac Lake became home to the famous “fresh air” cure.  Today, the Adirondack region is a popular destination for those wishing to restore their connection with the natural world.

You will study among students with a shared interest in preserving our environment to:

  • Understand how toxins affect living things
  • Explore why outbreaks of infectious diseases occur
  • Connect ecological change to impacts on humans
  • Design and participate in studies to investigate threats to human health
  • Develop solutions to environmental health issues
Key Facts
  • B.S. degree
  • 120 credit hours (minimum required)

Pairs well with:

  • GIS minor
  • Chemistry minor
  • EMT, OSHA Certification
Career Options
  • Epidemiology
  • Environmental Toxicology
  • Food and Water Safety
  • Environmental Health Education
  • Occupational Health and Safety
  • Health and Wellness
Courses & Objectives

At the end of the program students will be able to:

Foundation #1. The science of human biology.

  • Structure and function of living things at all levels of biological/ecological organization.
  • The molecular and cellular mechanisms by which humans adapt and respond to changing environmental conditions, biological toxins and infectious agents.
  • The dependence of human health on other organisms (e.g., microorganisms, plants, animals) and their population dynamics.
  • Human changes to ecosystem processes and landscape patterns that induce human health concerns.

Foundation #2. Applying the science of biology to human health issues.

  • Compare and contrast historical approaches to human health issues with emerging approaches to human health issues (esp. toxins, parasites, vectors, and diseases)
  • Critically delineate possible mechanisms underlying major issues in human health by obtaining and integrating knowledge at several levels of biological/ecological organization.
  • Develop technical skills used to assess, test and monitor threats to human health, including epidemiological and toxicological methods, geospatial mapping, and statistical testing.
  • Design studies that effectively investigate threats to human health (e.g., mechanistic studies, exposure risk and limits, disease transmission routes, and spread of infectious agents).

Foundation # 3. Approaches to protecting, maintaining, and restoring human health.

  • Identify sanitation issues and promote healthy practices in the home and work environment.
  • Learn the role of agencies (local, state, and federal levels) including laws, regulations, and policies relevant to human health and the environment.
  • Identify and develop the skills (e.g., communication and education) needed to effectively work with communities and land owners around issues of human health.
  • Identify appropriate interventions and assess their efficacy in addressing episodic events (e.g., infectious disease outbreaks, emergency disaster), chronic occurrences of diseases, or potential issues.

Sample courses:

  • Exploring Biology
  • Social & Cultural Engagement
  • Algebra
  • Responsibility & Expression
  • General Ecology
  • Genetics
  • Biological Effect of Environmental Toxins
  • Environmental Microbiology

More program information and a full course list can be found in the College Catalog. For program planning sheets, click here.

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