What is IHEAL?

Interactive Health Ecology Access Links (IHEAL) is an international service network dedicated to improving the presentation of information about health and the environment to the general public and non-governmental communities. IHEAL was created in February 1999 by non-governmental organisations seeking to implement the Principles of the Aarhus Convention and in fulfilment of the Ministerial Declaration, subsequently adopted by ministers of health and environment at the Third Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health in June 1999. The IHEAL Network cooperates closely with the Public Participation Campaigns Committee of the Pan-European ECO Forum.

To realize the Aarhus Convention's promise of enhanced public access to information, IHEAL members especially employ electronic access, Internet communication, and geographic information systems (GIS) technologies. The IHEAL Network has been in the forefront of promoting best practices in electronic information dissemination. We are leading advocates of Internet mapping of Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers (PRTR).

IHEAL's website -- www.iheal.org -- provides user-friendly links to some 600 electronic databases and other resources for environment & health information. The IHEAL Environment & Health Internet Links Directory invites users to promote links to electronic information, creating a truly interactive method of updating and refreshing the site's database.

IHEAL workshops on electronic access and Internet mapping have been presented at the Pan-European ECO Conference on Public Participation, in Chisinau, Moldova (April 1999), the Healthy Planet Forum, in London, England (June 1999), and the UN/ECE PRTR Task Force in Prague, Czech Republic (February, 2000).

At the Prague UN Task Force Meeting, IHEAL presented the results of the successful pilot Projekt IHEAL which placed interactive maps of pollution releases in the Czech Republic on the Internet. Projekt IHEAL was realized through an unprecedented partnership of NGOs and Czech government research institutes.

IHEAL also supports pilot community information projects in the Czech Republic, Hungary, the United Kingdom and the USA. We encourage grassroots NGOs to engage in community-based monitoring of local environmental and health conditions, and assist communities with the presentation of collected pollution information on the Internet. In particular, IHEAL offers technical assistance in community monitoring of toxic releases, the management of riparian and watershed data, and development of regional sustainability indicators.

The IHEAL Vision

The vision of IHEAL is to create a global network of independent community monitors who share scientifically qualified information over the Internet with environmental health activists, information technology professionals and members of the public. Sharing chemical disaster information over the IHEAL electronic mail listserve, our Network's members tracked the recent cyanide spill disaster in the Danube River basin and digitally mapped its spatial impact on the Tizsa River.

IHEAL Network members are actively working to refine Risk Communication tools to enhance public understanding of local and global environmental health hazards. Once communication standards are in place, we believe environmental health & sustainability information will become as widely reported as such currently popular reports as the daily national weather forecast. Leading Environmental Indicators will be as common as today's Leading Economic Indicators. Environmental health alerts will be as closely watched as emergency flood and storm warnings. Popular demand for these information services exists and is growing. Only the infrastructure of public access and understanding are missing. To fill these needs of the future Information Society we have created IHEAL.

Support for IHEAL

IHEAL's founding organizations are Environmental Partnership for Central Europe (Prague), Green Spider Foundation (Budapest), UNED-UK (London), the Union of International Associations (Brussels), and the International Campaign for Responsible Technology-Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition (San Jose, California). The IHEAL website is jointly produced by Green Spider Network and the International Campaign for Responsible Technology GIS Research Team. Financial support for IHEAL has been generously provided by the European Commission DGXI, the UK Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions, the World Health Organisation-Europe, and private contributors. In-kind services have been provided by Environmental Management and Law Association -Hungary, Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, the Union of International Associations and Winged Horse Trust, a registered UK Charity.