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How do the cultural contexts of waste practices affect health and well-being?

Health Evidence Network Synthesis Report, No. 75

, , , and .

Copenhagen: WHO Regional Office for Europe; .
ISBN-13: 978-92-890-5802-5


Managing the increasing amount and complexity of municipal solid waste poses a growing challenge to the entire WHO European Region, with serious implications for human health and well-being. Addressing this requires moving beyond technical innovations to better understand and integrate a wide range of factors, including cultural contexts. By examining evidence from a broad array of disciplines in peer-reviewed and grey literature, as well as case studies from the Region, this report opens up a systematic engagement with the role of culture in waste management practices and how this fosters or undermines conditions for health and well-being. While highlighting various tensions between cultural forces at multiple scales, the evidence suggests that culturally grounded approaches to waste management can yield higher rates of public participation and cross-sectoral collaboration, be more sustainable in the long term, and lead to better health and well-being for the wider public, particularly for groups with heavier health burdens associated with waste. The evidence provides a sound basis for strengthening existing policy frameworks and identifying areas in which culture can be a driver for improved policies that are supported by all stakeholders.

Suggested citation:

Foellmer J, Liboiron M, Rechenburg A, Kistemann T. How do the cultural contexts of waste practices affect health and well-being? Copenhagen: WHO Regional Office for Europe; 2022 (Health Evidence Network Evidence Synthesis Report 75).

The Health Evidence Network

The Health Evidence Network (HEN) is an information service for public health decision-makers in the WHO European Region, in action since 2003 and initiated and coordinated by the WHO Regional Office for Europe under the umbrella of the WHO European Health Information Initiative (a multipartner network coordinating all health information activities in the WHO European Region).

HEN supports public health decision-makers to use the best available evidence in their own decision-making and aims to ensure links between evidence, health policies and improvements in public health. The HEN synthesis report series provides summaries of what is known about the policy issue, the gaps in the evidence and the areas of debate. Based on the synthesized evidence, HEN proposes policy considerations, not recommendations, for policy-makers to formulate their own recommendations and policies within their national context.

Behavioural and Cultural Insights Unit

The Behavioural and Cultural Insights Unit at the WHO Regional Office for Europe explores the structural, contextual and individual factors that affect health behaviours. It uses these insights to strengthen health-related policies, services and communication to deliver better health and reduce inequity. Many of the Region's most pressing health problems are not medical, but rather behavioural, social, cultural, political, psychological or economic in nature. Building a culture of health, in which everyone is supported to make healthy choices, depends on nuanced insights into these contexts as they are experienced by people and into the factors that affect human behaviours and decision-making. Using a rigorous, evidence-informed approach that builds on the health humanities and social sciences, the Unit works with health authorities to improve the way their services respond to their citizens’ needs for people-centred care.

Environment and Health Impact Assessment Programme

The Environment and Health Impact Assessment Programme at the WHO Regional Office for Europe contributes to implementing the Environment and Health Process, the European Programme of Work and the Sustainable Development Goals. The Environment and Health Impact Assessment Programme aims to support Member States in addressing the health implications of broad, multisectoral, complex domains of high relevance to environment and health, sustainability and societal resilience including (i) waste and industrial contamination; (ii) green space, blue space and urban environments; (iii) the circular economy; and (iv) environmental health inequalities and economics. These domains involve multiple risk factors and determinants, and require assembling multiple types of evidence with varying degrees of reliability through multidisciplinary and multisectoral approaches. Risk assessment and health impact assessment, including burden-of-disease analysis, are the main tools for these evaluations. The Programme also aims to anticipate and detect environment and health risks at an early stage and to stimulate Member States to take a proactive attitude towards emerging issues such as major global trends, new technologies and emerging health threats. Nature, biodiversity and health, and understanding the role of the environment in One Health are additional new topics addressed by the Programme. The Programme is also leading the Bonn School on Environment and Health, which takes a transformational approach in creating leadership in environmental and health.

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ISSN 2789-9217

ISBN 978-92-890-5802-5

© World Health Organization 2022

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© World Health Organization 2022.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 IGO licence, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Bookshelf ID: NBK582037PMID: 35862566


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