Global conference sets health action agenda

Participants attending the Second Global Conference on Health and Climate, hosted by the Government of France, COP21 presidency, proposed key actions for the implementation of the Paris agreement to reduce health risks linked to climate change.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that climate change is already causing tens of thousands of deaths every year. These deaths arise from more frequent epidemics of diseases like cholera, the vastly expanded geographical distribution of diseases like dengue, and from extreme weather events, like heat waves and floods.

At the same time, nearly 7 million people each year die from diseases caused by air pollution, such as lung cancer and stroke.

Experts predict that, by 2030, climate change will cause an additional 2,50,000 deaths each year from malaria, diarrhoeal disease, heat stress and undernutrition alone.

The heaviest burden will fall on children, women, older people and the poor, further widening existing health inequalities between and within populations.

The conference highlighted the benefits of switching to cleaner energy sources. These will help reduce levels of climate and air pollutants, as well as providing desperately needed power for health facilities in low-income countries. The health sector should themselves make a greater effort to promote low-carbon healthcare facilities and technologies; these can simultaneously improve service delivery and reduce costs as well as climate and environmental impacts.

The participants called for countries to adopt a new approach to link health economics assessment and climate change, for example, by calculating the avoided healthcare costs, when countries invest in mitigation of climate emissions, and protection from climate risks.

To develop this work, WHO announced a new working group which will articulate a new coherent approach to health economics and climate change. To do so, it is recommended that countries spend more on protecting health from risks linked to climate, such as extreme weather events and outbreaks of infectious disease and in cleaner energy sources, more sustainable transport systems and urban planning that also reduces major health risks, for example air pollution in cities and in the home. Recommendations also focus on scaling up financing on climate change and health through additional resources and mechanisms and existing resources earmarked for adaptation.

Source: World Health Organisation



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