Climate change is poised to become what the prestigious British medical publication The Lancet has called “the biggest global health threat of the 21century.”
The health impacts of climate change include increases in heat-related illnesses and death; extreme weather-related injuries and mortality; aggravated chronic illnesses; spread of infectious diseases: vector -, zoonotic-, water- and food- borne diseases; increases in asthma, respiratory allergies, and chronic respiratory disorders; growing malnutrition and child development complications; increases in stress-related and mental health disorders; growing health impacts related to both population displacement and migration; as well as climate-triggered instability and conflict. The healthcare sector is also just beginning to understand that climate change will have major impacts on health care costs, services and delivery.
Even as it begins to grapple with climate change’s impacts, the health sector itself is paradoxically making a significant contribution to climate change. Through the products and technologies it deploys, the energy and resources it consumes, the waste it generates and the buildings it constructs and operates, the health sector is a significant source of carbon emissionsaround the world, and therefore an unintentional contributor to climate change trends that undermine public health.
At the same time, because the health sector is a major economic, political and moral force in most every society, it holds the potential to play a leadership role in addressing climate change everywhere.
An engaged health sector of millions of health professionals, professional associations, hospitals, health systems, health NGOs, ministries of health and international organizations can help broaden and deepen the worldwide movement to addressclimate change, moving the world toward a healthy, low carbon development path.
HCWH is working to address this urgent issue in three key areas:
- We are developing projects to educate and engage health professionals around the world on health impacts of climate change, including our bi-weekly Climate and Health News Service.
- We are working, through the Global Green and Healthy Hospitals Network, to reduce the health sector’s climate footprint.
- We are collaborating with leading health organizations around the world to advocate at both the national and global levels for a low carbon development path that will reduce the negative health impacts of fossil fuels, saving both money and lives locally and globally.
To achieve these goals we are working closely with a number of major national and international health organizations to build a Global Climate and Health Alliance that will amplify the voice of the health sector on this most critical issue.