South Africa | Spotlight on Climate, Energy, and Air Pollution at Public Health Conference

Facilitated by Health Care Without Harm’s Strategic Partner in South Africa, groundWork, climate change, energy choices, and air pollution were prominently featured at the Public Health Association of South Africa (PHASA) Conference held in Durban on October 7-9, 2015.

The opening plenary session of the PHASA Conference was dedicated to the topic of sustainable development. It featured Health Care Without Harm’s senior advisor Dr. Peter Orris, Professor and Chief of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago (USA), who spoke about the health sector’s impact on sustainable development. Following Dr. Orris, Professor Patrick Bond, political economist at the University of KwaZulu-Natal School of Development Studies in Durban and director of its Centre for Civil Society, discussed the Sustainable Development Goals.

In addition to the plenary, groundWork facilitated a workshop called “Climate Change, Air Quality and Health: Impacts of Energy Choices” where Dr. Orris spoke in greater detail about the health effects of air pollution and how damaging it is to the population’s health. “Studies are beginning to show that air pollution from coal mines, factories and a build-up in pollution from transport affects reproduction in humans”, said Orris, who added that “the U.S. has seen an increase in infant mortality and a decrease in birth weight”. He also said that “the consequences of air pollution could also cause a drop in IQ levels among new generations with special needs children outweighing the number of intellectually gifted children”.

Global Green and Healthy Hospitals also took part of the workshop, with examples on the work of GGHH member in South Africa, the Western Cape Government Health, and a presentation on the 2020 Health Care Climate Challenge. For more information on the work of Western Cape Government Health, click here.

Other topics discussed during the workshop were:

  • Health effects of energy production
  • Energy generation and the public’s health in South Africa
  • The Air Quality Act, air pollution and the disconnect between environmental governance and public health
  • Introduction to climate change and the health sector responses needed
  • Public Health Responses needed for climate change - Academic sector response

The other speakers in the workshop were:

  • Prof. Rajen Naidoo: Head of Occupational and Environmental Health, School of Nursing and Public Health, University of KwaZulu-Natal
  • Ms. Melissa Fourie: Executive Director, Centre for Environmental Rights NPC
  • Dr. Krish Vallabhjee. Western Cape DoH Chief Director: Strategy and Health Support
  • Prof. Bob Mash: Head of the Division of Family Medicine and Primary Care at Stellenbosch University
  • Mr. Andy Cunningham: Western Cape DoH Chief Director: Chief Engineer - Infrastructure and Technical Management

For more information on the workshop, read the article published on The Witness.