Leading Health Organizations Rally Around Call to Action to Protect People’s Health from Climate Change

13 Sep 2018 11:34 AM | Anonymous

Representatives of millions of health professionals and thousands of hospitals from around the world call on local, national and global policymakers to act now for healthy people on a healthy planet

SAN FRANCISCO – Sept. 12, 2018 – Today dozens of leading health organizations representing more than five million doctors, nurses and public health professionals, and 17,000 hospitals, in more than 120 countries announced commitments and unveiled a Call to Action on Climate and Health aimed at accelerating stronger advocacy and action in addressing climate change—the greatest health threat of the 21st century. The commitments were made as part of the Global Climate and Health Forum at the University of California, San Francisco, an affiliate event to the Global Climate Action Summit.

The commitments announced at the Forum include efforts by hospitals, doctors, nurses and health professionals to take meaningful action to protect public health from climate change. Among these were more than 176 health care institutions representing 17,000 hospitals and health centers in 26 countries that are committing to reduce their carbon emissions by more than 16 million metric tons a year— the equivalent of shutting down four coal fired power plants.

More than 1,200 of these hospitals in both developed and developing countries are also committing to use only 100 percent renewable electricity to power health. More than 200 nurses in 22 states in the U.S. have committed to the Nurses Climate Challenge, launching a movement committed to educating their peers and forging climate solutions in care settings and in the community. And 24 major health organizations across the United States have joined the We Are Still In (WASI) coalition, adding a health voice to the message that the United States is still committed to the Paris Agreement.

“Every breath matters and we all have an inalienable right to life on a healthy planet. It’s absolutely critical that the health sector’s voice and perspective on climate action is heard loud and clear by the public and at all levels of government.” said Christiana Figueres, former executive secretary, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and convener of Mission2020.

The Call to Action is endorsed by over 50 organizations from across the globe, including the World Federation of Public Health Associations, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Public Health Association, the International Federation of Medical Students Associations, Dignity Health, Kaiser Permanente and the American Lung Association. It outlines 10 priority actions that will significantly protect lives and improve people’s health in the era of climate change:

1. Meet and strengthen the commitments under the Paris Agreement.

2. Transition away from the use of coal, oil and natural gas to clean, safe and renewable energy.

3. Transition to zero-carbon transportation systems with an emphasis on active transportation.

4. Build local, healthy and sustainable food and agricultural systems.

5. Invest in policies that support a just transition for workers and communities adversely impacted by the

move to a low-carbon economy.

6. Ensure that gender equality is central to climate action.

7. Raise the health sector voice in the call for climate action.

8. Incorporate climate solutions into all health care and public health systems.

9. Build resilient communities in the face of climate change.

10. Invest in climate and health.

Climate change threatens to undo decades of health and development gains. Extreme heat and weather events caused thousands of deaths and displaced over 200 million people between 2008 and 2015; air pollution, whose primary driver—fossil fuel combustion—is also the primary driver of climate change, caused over 7 million deaths in 2016; vector-borne diseases are spreading to new communities; the agricultural, food, and water systems we depend on for our survival are under threat; and the frequency and severity of droughts, floods, and fires are increasing.

Climate action in the energy, transportation, land use, agricultural and other sectors would avoid millions of preventable deaths each year. Shifting to renewable energy, sustainable food production and diets, active transportation and green cities will lower climate pollution and reduce the incidence of communicable and non-communicable disease, improve mental health, and bring significant health care cost savings.

“Climate change is the greatest health threat and opportunity of the 21st century and the health sector must lead the way to call on local, national and global policymakers to act now to significantly reduce climate pollution and build climate resilience,” said Dr. Maria Neira, director, Department of Public Health, Environment, and Social Determinants of Health, World Health Organization. “With the right policies and investments today, we have the opportunity to realize our vision of healthy people in healthy places on a healthy planet.”

Today’s announcements were made as part of the Global Climate and Health Forum, focused on building the capacity of the global health response to climate change by strengthening collaboration across all health sector stakeholders, raising the health voice for climate action and mobilizing health sector commitments to climate change solutions. The one-day forum featured prominent speakers from United Nations organizations, climate and health NGOs, health organizations, government and the private sector.

The Global Climate and Health Forum was hosted by Health Care Without Harm, the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) Global Health Group, the U.S. Climate and Health Alliance and the Global Climate and Health Alliance. The event was sponsored by Dignity Health, Glaser Progress Foundation, Kaiser Permanente, Wellcome Trust, United Nations Development Programme, The Kresge Foundation, The California Endowment, American Public Health Association, Public Health Institute and the American Lung Association. The Forum was organized in collaboration with the World Health Organization.

To read the full version of this media release, please click HERE


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Letter to the Listener 28 July 2017 in response to Fever Pitch (Listener 21 July 2017)

Catherine Woulfe’s thorough investigation of rheumatic fever brings to the surface a range of important questions not only about this cruel disease, but also wider issues about health policy. The Government’s bold initiative to reduce the incidence of rheumatic fever as one of its 'Better Public Service' targets in 2012 certainly raised awareness of rheumatic fever for the general public as well as communities and families directly affected. But even when medical science and the public have a clearer understanding of the immediate causes of rheumatic fever, interventions like the $65m ‘sore throats matter’ still won’t stop the epidemic. 

Ramona Tiatia’s blunt description of the experience of affected families not only painted a picture of the impact on affected families and communities, it also highlighted the invidious choices our health funders face.  How much should we prioritise health spending between response to the urgent need of young people whose lives and potential can be devastated by the disease versus the expense of addressing the economic and social factors that underlie the reasons we have this epidemic at all?   

As several of the clinicians interviewed pointed out, it’s only when the poverty and over-crowded housing issues are addressed that we will make a real difference.

Rheumatic fever illustrates the contradictions in our health system identified in the recent American Commonwealth Fund report. Of the 11 countries the Fund monitors, the work our health professionals do is ranked among the highest. But our overall performance as a health system falls to the middle ranking because of our poor performance on access and equity. The Fund also notes that our per capita expenditure is among the cheapest. 

Failure to invest in real prevention - that is, poverty, housing, good nutrition etc. - will continue to drive conditions like rheumatic fever, whether the immediate cause is strep throat or skin sores, until we invest upstream.

Why not spend more on these conditions - the economic and social determinants of health? 

We all pay in the long run - the young people whose misery we tolerate and whose potential remains unfulfilled, the families whose sacrifices are unrewarded, and the taxpayer who picks up the tab.

Ngā mihi,
Warren Lindberg

CE Public Health Association of New Zealand


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