Public health, environmental and social determinants of health (PHE)

Public health policy for outdoor air quality

What challenges do countries face, and what obstacles are preventing assistance in improving urban outdoor air quality?

Enough knowledge exists internationally about the health effects of outdoor air pollution and about the policies that can improve air quality and by consequence protect health.

What often can limit policy development for the improvement of air quality in a city, is the lack of access to information on levels of air pollutants and their main sources of pollutants in that city.

There is often a lack of awareness about the health burden of outdoor air pollution within urban populations. This can be due to little awareness of the international evidence from both developed and developing countries linking outdoor air pollution exposure and health, or due to a gap in information from air quality monitoring, or even due to an under-appreciation of the potential solutions and measures that can be taken to improve air quality.

Urban outdoor air pollution is an inter-sectoral challenge. Improving air quality should be an important consideration in policy planning across different economic sectors (e.g. transport, energy, industry, urban development) to ensure the greatest benefits for health.

In addition, there is significant inequality in the exposure to air pollution and the related health risk: air pollution combines with other aspects of the social and physical environment, creating disproportional disease burden in populations with limited incomes and with minimal local resources to take action.