The Impact of the Natural, Built, and Spiritual Environments on Human Health

Tomás León


Health is defined by the WHO as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” This is a reasonably comprehensive definition to cover one of our most valuable assets (if not the most). Our health is significantly impacted by internal and external environments: the natural environment, which includes air pollution and water quality; the built environment, which includes access to public transportation and available green space; and the spiritual environment, which includes personal beliefs and religious community. Each of these has effects on multiple facets of our health. In this talk, I will discuss this paradigm for viewing our own well-being and cite demonstrative examples from Scripture while describing how my spiritual and academic journeys have led me to this perspective.

Tomás is a Ph.D. student in Environmental Health Sciences at UC-Berkeley. He completed his B.S. in Environmental Engineering at Georgia Tech and his M.S. in Global Health & Environment at UC-Berkeley. His past and present research focuses include indicator organisms in natural waters in the Americas, environmental factors influencing parasite transmission in Southeast Asia, and development of sustainable transit and the clean energy economy in the American South. He is preparing to embark on a Fulbright to northeast Thailand for a year to study how changes in aquaculture are influencing the transmission cycle of Opisthorchis viverrini, a carcinogenic liver fluke parasite. He has also worked on exposure assessment with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and with environmental nonprofits in the Atlanta area. He has sought to understand the impacts of “environments” ever since he was a kid.

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