‘Achieving health equity within a generation is achievable, it is the right thing to do, and now is the right time to do it’ (WHO 2008).

In 2008 a WHO Commission, led by Professor Sir Michael Marmot, reported that a girl born in some countries could expect to live more than 80 years but in others just 45 years. However, the difference is not just restricted to being born in different countries – in parts of the UK life expectancy is 82 years but in others it is just 54.

It is not just a matter of water, sanitation and good nutrition nor any of the normally recognised stressors – there is a ‘social gradient’ in health which is related to social scale and the extent of control over one’s life;

Marmot concludes that ‘social injustice is killing on a grand scale’ and calls on all governments ‘to close the gap in a generation’.

We know that in communities across the world there are dynamic projects aimed at improving the health of our citizens and this project is aimed at drawing them together in a simple referenced form to be made available publicly. We hope that these will spark more ideas and projects focused locally addressing local health inequalities.

Originally entitled the 101 Postcard project we believe that there are very many more activities that can be included and so, ambitiously, it has been renamed “1001 Postcards”.

We invite community health professionals from around the world to submit details of their projects to us in a simple powerpoint format – a template and example are available from S. Cooper who will also receive any submissions.

Governments unprepared for the health impacts of climate change: global survey

wfphalogoshortwfphalogoshortA new report by the World Federation of Public Health Associations (WFPHA) reveals many countries are lagging in policies to protect their populations from the adverse health impacts of climate change. Respondents from 35 countries completed the global survey, which revealed more than half of respondent countries (51%) had no national plan to adequately protect the health of their citizens from climate change.

WFPHA President Mengistu Asnake said: “The health impacts of climate change is one of the most significant public health risks facing the global community. While there are some encouraging signs, this benchmark survey reveals many gaps in policy at the national level to respond. We encourage all national governments to develop national climate and health plans to ensure their citizens are not unprotected from the major health risks from climate change.” 

The WFPHA survey found both developed and developing nations lacked comprehensive national climate change action plans, however vulnerable developing nations appear to be less prepared, with 70% of respondent countries reporting that either their national climate policies did not address health or there was no national climate action plan in existence. Positive examples do exist, with case studies from US and South Korea featured in the report, which the authors say offer insights into both mitigation and adaptation strategies. The majority of respondent countries (77.1%) have no comprehensive identification of health risks of climate change projections for their citizens and 65.7% had done little towards identifying vulnerable populations and infrastructure, developing public health adaptation responses, assessing coping capacity or gaps in knowledge.

Dr Peter Orris, Co-Chair, Environmental Working Group, WFPHA said: “This survey reveals we are failing, as a global community, to tap into the benefits that climate action will bring for nations, for communities and for individual health and well-being.”

A recent Health and Climate Commission published in the international medical journal The Lancet suggests tackling climate change could be the “greatest opportunity of the 21st century” to improve health across the globe, highlighting that many strategies to respond to climate change also bring significant co-benefits for health, offering significant savings for healthcare budgets as well as increased productivity by reducing the burden of ill-health. A recent study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) found carbon reduction policies can lead to big savings on health care spending and other costs related to illness — in some cases, more than 10 times the cost of policy implementation.

The WFPHA report’s recommendations call for health protection and promotion to be a central principle in global climate policies being negotiated under the United National Framework Convention on Climate Change. It calls on all governments to develop national climate and health plans, addressing both adaptation to unavoidable warming and mitigation [to prevent further warming], and for health professional associations globally to make it a priority to raise awareness of the issue.

“The message from the global public health community is very clear,” Dr Asnake said. “We must act now to secure public health, and reap the benefits, for health budgets and the global community. Designing policies and programs at national and global level to protect people from climate change provides an immediate global health opportunity to reduce the burden of illness, while delivering a more stable climate in the longer term.”

To read the media release click here.

To read the report click here.

To read the survey results click here.


Media contacts:

Dr Mengistu Asnake, President WFPHA, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia +251 911227430
Professor Bettina Borisch, Executive Officer WFPHA, Geneva, Switzerland +41 22 379 04 66
Professor Peter Orris, Chair Environment Working Group WFPHA, Chicago USA +1 312 446 3217
Adjunct Professor Michael Moore, Vice President WFPHA, Canberra Australia +61 417 249 731

Climate change is the greatest threat to global health in the 21st century. Health professionals have a duty of care to current and future generations. They are also on the front line in protecting people from climate impacts, from more heatwaves and other extreme weather events, to outbreaks of infectious diseases such as malaria, dengue and cholera, to the effects of malnutrition. Health professionals around the world are also strong advocates for healthier environments, providing clean air, abundant and safe food and water.

 

The WHO call to action will be presented at the Paris COP and will demand a climate deal that delivers:

  • Strong and effective action to limit climate change, and avoid unacceptable risks to global health.
  • Scaling up of financing for adaptation to climate change: including public health measures to reduce the risks from extreme weather events, infectious disease, diminishing water supplies, and food insecurity, and
  • Actions that both reduce climate change and improve health, including reducing the number of deaths from cancer, respiratory and cardiovascular diseases that are caused by air pollution (currently over 7 million per annum).


WHO calls for urgent action to protect health from climate change – Sign the call

Sign the call to action

Our climate our health, it’s time for all health professionals to take action

The WFPHA and EUPHA have jointly developed a statement on the refugees crisis. The statement has been presented at the European Public Health Conference in Milan on October 15th 2015. To read the statement, click here.