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National concern over the quality of our environment began in the 1970s with the passage of major legislation such as the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts, and continues today. With environmental factors estimated to be responsible for 25–40% of the burden of human ill-health around the world—often most seriously affecting the most vulnerable members of society, such as young children, pregnant women, and the poor—environmental health science will remain an important discipline.

The interaction between humans and their environment has created new and challenging problems and opportunities for this field. With these new opportunities comes the need for scientifically literate and technologically well-trained workers. To effectively assess the human health impacts of physical, chemical, and biological agents in the environment, and find ways to measure and control them, those entering the field of environmental health science must have a strong foundational understanding of the physical and biological sciences, as well as technical expertise in environmental quality assessment techniques and information processing tools. They must also be able to practice the skills of science, think critically, and solve problems.

At Science Approach, we believe that learning environmental health science (as well as other science subjects and mathematics) is facilitated by the use of GIS and image processing and analysis. When students explore data with a GIS, they can represent geographic data on a map in a multitude of ways, enabling them to quickly see certain attributes of the features displayed (e.g., city size, ozone level, vegetation type, elevation, etc.), and observe the spatial relationships between them. With GIS, students can discover patterns they might not discern in tabular data, and delve into and analyze nonspatial data associated with map features (e.g., the number of endangered species present at a particular location, a city’s name and population, etc.).

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