Health & Climate Change: should we care or not?

During the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Bonn, we usually hear about how climate change affects the world economy, the production, the business and so on. We never heard of how climate change affects our health or national health systems. Maybe we have heard of it, but we never actually paid attention.

This year the World Health Organization (WHO) presented the country profiles for health and climate change, after the WHO Director-General had an agreement on that with the UN Framework Executive Secretary last August on the first global Climate and Health Conference in Geneva. The main goal of these profiles is to compile the most accurate information on the health impacts, adaptation measures and co-benefits for health of mitigation to each country.

Having these country briefings, WHO and the UNFCCC Secretariat is going to support countries to reach a more positive outcome for health and the climate system, in order to encourage the Ministries of Health to get involved with the preparations of national positions before COP21 in Paris.

Until 2010 the statistics on how many deaths did we have by Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions are showing below:

  • 3mln deaths from indoor air pollution – houses, workplaces, public buildings etc.
  • 1mln deaths from occupational risks – mostly industry field.
  • 8mln deaths from overweight/ obese – agricultural aspect.
  • 2mln from road traffic crashes – means of transportation in any scale.
  • 2mln from physical inactivity – physical transportation.
  • 7mln deaths from outdoors air pollution – electricity and heat providers

It is terrifying to know in numbers how many people are dying, because countries are not able to act on health issues or because health is not a priority on the governments’ agenda at the moment. That is why WHO is in the Intersessionals trying to push Parties to include health in the final Agreement in Paris.

During the first days of the UNFCCC, WHO was having the 4th Health In Climate (HIC) conference. Both HIC and WHO advocate stronger mainstreaming of Climate Change and health. All the topics raised in health aspect are according to the main discussions are happening in Bonn and ways for health to be included in each one of those sections.

When it comes to mitigation, WHO states that the reduction of GHG emissions can save lives. In addition keeping the hospital admissions on the lower levels save enormous costs for health care and society. People need health to all policies just in order to be able to survive.

As the discussion of adaptation, climate change is harming health and well-being and thus affecting the economic welfare and political stability. It should be taken under consideration when working on national adaptation plans, because being adaptation actions could strengthen different health systems, all over the globe.

Another big issue during the discussions and also an important topic for the most of the world, at least the last 5 years, is finance. It is strongly related to health because health cost benefit of low carbon choices which are must be included in cost benefit analysis, though including the costs of the harm to health.

For the technology transfer, which at the moment is not a very active topic within the negotiations, Central and Eastern Europe, have solar powered hospitals transforming their health care. It benefits the actual health and public economy too. That is the kind of transformation people wants to see.

All the above topics are relevant and unfortunately society cannot manage handling them one by one. People need to act in all subjects in every possible way, and just be ready for the outcomes. Having “health” in the discussions and later in the text, it is a huge win for society. But at the very end is coming up to national contributions and peoples’ commitment to be shown not only in the text, but also on real time. If the bigger community shows respect and improvement on this, individuals are going to embrace it as well. It is a group effort and we need to make this step for our own sake.

Act now on HEALTH!