Scientific assessment tools

Scientific tools illustration
WHO; Rob Barnes

Even in a world of rapid information access, synthesizing vital scientific knowledge and evidence about environmental health problems, and potential solutions, into readily understandable concepts and statistics remains a formidable challenge.

However, a range of scientific tools exist to facilitate such synthesis. Those include tools for quantifying population health impacts (e.g. burden of disease assessment), which measure the health impacts of environmental hazards in very simple terms such as mortality. Another useful burden of disease measure, disability-adjusted life years (DALYs), combines the burden due to death and disability in a single index.

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) may, among other things, describe ecological features; patterns of ecological degradation/rehabilitation; identify areas of high risk; and provide information useful in monitoring trends. Environment and health indicators provide basic data to identify priority issues, and to track progress to the goal; Environment and health standards, guidelines and certain multilateral agreements/conventions set baselines or thresholds for permissible pollution or pollution exposure levels, and define goals to be achieved. Links to these resources are provided below.

  • Health indicators/trends
    Description of trends and key health indicators, e.g. mortality, morbidity and health expenditure, as summarized in The World Health Report of the World Health Organization and its statistical annexes (available in PDF and excel formats).
  • Environmental trends
    Background information on Global Environment Outlook Assessments
  • Environmental data and indicators
    GEO data portal of the United Nations Environment Programme; more than 450 different variables; national, regional and global statistics/geospatial data sets;on range of themes including, freshwater, population, forests, emissions, climate, etc.
  • Quantifying environmental health impacts
    Resources and methods for quantifying 'burden of disease' from key environmental risks at national and local level.
  • Environmental mapping systems
    Policy brief and directory of resources.
  • Children environmental health indicators
    Also provides links to major children's environmental health portals and publications within UNEP/WHO, the United Nations system, and other organizations, e.g. development agencies, academic/research and civil society.
  • Data bases/indicators/standards/conventions
    Specific to key risks or issues, e.g. air, water, toxics, etc. please search by area of focus, within the web-accessible directories.


Health and Environment: Managing the Linkages for Sustainable Development

Ecosystems and human well-being: Health synthesis

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment

Health/environment journals on line





Health & environment: tools for effective decision-making

Health & environment: tools for effective decision-making

The WHO-UNEP Health and Environment Linkages Initiative (HELI): Review of initial findings

Information package in environmental and occupational health

Information package in environmental and occupational health