Health Care

Health Care Commitment to Tackle Climate Change Launched at Clinton Global Initiative

Health Care Without Harm and Skoll Foundation announce a a new effort to reduce health care’s carbon footprint.

Health Care Without Harm, sponsored by the Skoll Foundation, unveiled a commitment at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) to reduce health care’s carbon footprint in order to protect public health from climate change.

Health care currently represents 8 percent of U.S. and 5 percent of European greenhouse gas emissions. The CGI commitment sets an ambitious target to mobilize 10,000 hospitals and health centers on every continent in a collective effort to reduce the health sector’s greenhouse gas emissions by 26 million metric tons annually by 2020. This is equivalent to taking 5.5 million cars off the road or installing 7,000 new wind turbines every year.

“Climate change is an issue that affects the health of our planet and everyone on it,” said Sally Osberg, CEO of the Skoll Foundation. “We are making this commitment at CGI for two reasons: to achieve sustainable global change at a systems level, while helping broaden discussion and action on climate. Health care is at the core of every human’s well-being. By extension, health professionals are integral to our future, and can help lead the response to one of the most urgent global threats of our time.”

The CGI commitment sets an ambitious target to mobilize 10,000 hospitals and health centers on every continent in a collective effort to reduce the health sector’s greenhouse gas emissions by 26 million metric tons annually by 2020. This is equivalent to taking 5.5 million cars off the road or installing 7,000 new wind turbines every year.

In this regard, Josh Karliner, Director of Global Projects and the International Team Coordinator for Health Care Without Harm, affirmed in an article posted on the Huffington Post: “As we approach COP21 in Paris this December, leading health authorities are recognizing climate change as one of the great public health crises of our time. So it's quite the paradox that health care contributes much more than it should to rising global temperatures”.

The CGI commitment builds on Health Care Without Harm’s 2020 Health Care Climate Challenge by setting ambitious targets. Participants in the 2020 Health Care Climate Challenge already include more than 30 major health systems representing 1,200 hospitals and health centers from around the world, from Brazil, Canada, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, United Kingdom and United States; amongst other countries.

Many health care systems are committing to reducing their own greenhouse gas emissions, often by 30 or 40 percent. Some are moving toward carbon neutrality. Others are advocating for public policies that foster a transition away from fossil fuels and to clean, renewable energy.

“This is just the beginning of a worldwide effort,” said Gary Cohen, President of Health Care Without Harm, and a Skoll Social Entrepeneur. “Our commitment at CGI is to scale-up this Challenge so that protecting public health from climate change becomes embedded in health care’s DNA the world over.”

  • For more on the 2020 Health Care Climate Challenge, clik here.
  • To read the article from the Huffington Post, click here.
September 29, 2015Global

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GGHH Webinar Series | Health and Climate Change: The Lancet Commission Report

Tackling climate change could be the greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century”, assures the Lancet Commission Report on Health and Climate Change.

This Commission maps out the impacts of climate change, and the necessary policy responses, to ensure the highest attainable standards of health for populations worldwide. For more information and to download the report, click here.

Goals

  • Review the history, background and recommendations of the Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change
  • Discuss case examples of health system implementation of the recommendations

Main Speaker

Nick Watts, the lead author and head of project for the 2015 Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change, will be the main speaker in the upcoming webinar.

Nick also works for the World Health Organization’s Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health, and as director of the Global Climate and Health Alliance.

His research interests include health system strengthening and reform processes; the application of complexity theory to development economics; and the protection and promotion of public health through sustainable development and climate change mitigation.

Register!

GGHH will be hosting two sessions to accommodate a variety of time zones. Both sessions will be recorded and require registration prior to the event.

Session 1 | Tuesday, September 29th: 7 pm Pacific Time Zone (USA), 10 pm Eastern Daylight Time (USA), 11 pm Argentina Time Zone. Wednesday, September 30th: 4 am Central European Time Zone and South Africa Time Zone, 7.45 am Nepal Time Zone, 10 am Philippine Time Zone and China Standard Time Zone, 12 pm Australian Eastern Time Zone. 

Session 2 Wednesday, September 30th: 7 am Pacific Time Zone (USA), 10 am Eastern Daylight Time (USA), 11 am Argentina Time Zone, 4 pm Central European Time Zone and South Africa Time Zone, 7.45 pm Nepal Time Zone and 10 pm Philippine Time Zone and China Standard Time Zone.

Duration: 1 hour

Language: English

Cost: Free of charge.

Those who participate in the entire webinar will receive a Certificate of Attendance by email. When you complete the registration form, please provide your name as you would like it to appear on the Certificate of Attendance.

To watch the tutorials on how to connect audio during the webinar, click here.

Speakers

  • Josh Karliner: International Team Coordinator and Director of Global Projects, Health Care Without Harm. In this capacity he works to support the development of HCWH’s work in Asia, Africa and Latin America, while also overseeing the organization’s global campaign on climate change, the development of the Global Green and Healthy Hospitals Network and HCWH’s collaboration with WHO to eliminate mercury in health care.
  • Brenna Davis: Director of Sustainability at Virginia Mason, one of the top 25 greenest hospitals in the United States, according to Practice Greenhealth. She is the co-founder and chair of Washington Business for Climate Action, an organization calling for climate action on behalf of over 250 Washington State businesses. She is also the founder of the Pacific Northwest Health Care Sustainability Leaders Roundtable, and serves on the Advisory Board of Huxley College for the Environment, one of the oldest environmental colleges in the United States.
  • Renzo Guinto: Campaigner for the Healthy Energy Initiative of Health Care Without Harm-Asia. He is a physician interested in global health, health systems, and social and environmental determinants of health. He is also co-founder and director of #ReimagineGlobalHealth, a youth think-and-do tank for the world’s health, and is a member of various groups including the University of the Philippines Manila Universal Health Care Study Group, The Lancet-University of Oslo Youth Commission on Global Governance for Health, and the World Health Organization steering committee on transformative health professions education and social determinants of health.
September 22, 2015Global

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HCWH Founder, Gary Cohen, at TEDxMadrid Talks About Environmental Health

Gary Cohen, president and founder of Health Care Without Harm, was invited to give a talk on environmental health for in the seventh edition of TEDxMadrid on September 12th in Madrid, Spain.

Gary Cohen explains how hospitals around the world are transforming from once being dangerous places that were contributing to the toxicity of our environment, to being places where miracles can happen.

This year, the event will celebrate the adventurous spirit of the amateur in different areas of knowledge: science and technology; in creative, productive, or entrepreneurial activity; and in solving the world's problems. Because it is in the garages of mind where new formulas that save lives or change design.

Watch Gary's talk (Note his talk starts at the 56 minute mark)

 

This is a summary of the talk by Verity Harrison (@larebe40 | www.thinkdoodly.com):

 

September 17, 2015Global

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Video | The Bliss of Ignorance

Source: http://theblissofignorance.net/

Through first-hand testimony The Bliss of Ignorance investigates South Africa's complex relationship with one of the country's most abundant resources: coal.

With experts predicting the creation of a "sick" generation in the Mpumalanga region (which is home to 12 of the world's largest power stations), this documentary looks at the impact of South Africa's energy policy - particularly the support for Eskom's coal-fired power stations - on public health. In February 2015 energy giants Eskom were granted five years grace from complying with atmospheric emission standards, making this film ever more timely and relevant.

Set against the wider climate change debate, The Bliss of Ignorance highlights how the mining and burning of coal affects the environment; polluting air and valuable water resources in a water-scarce country. In 2012, 17,000 people in Carolina, Mpumalanga were left without water because their local supply was polluted by acid mine drainage.

While making The Bliss of Ignorance the filmmaker visited Durban, Pretoria, Johannesburg and Cape Town interviewing scientists, lawyers, professors, campaigners, doctors, university lecturers and representatives from Eskom. He also lived in a township in Mpumalanga to learn first hand from residents about the main health impacts and how pollution is affecting their lives and the lives of their children.

The Bliss of Ignorance is a production for Friends of the Earth International and groundWork.

Contacts

[email protected] or [email protected] 

August 14, 2015Global

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Blog | Chemicals in Africa

Vested interests in treaties such as the Minamata Convention on Mercury will protect our children

Source: groundWork - Newsletter June 2015

Globally, researchers are describing a pandemic of childhood developmental disabilities. In the US, where advanced surveillance techniques are well established and sensitive enough to detect patterns over time, the numbers are ringing alarm bells! The U.S. Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reported that between 2006 and 2008 approximately two million more US children were diagnosed with developmental disabilities (including autism, neurobehavioral development disorder and attention defi cit hyperactivity disorder) compared with a decade earlier (1).

While better diagnostics may explain some of this increase, a significant trend emerging from global health research associates exposure to a growing body of better researched, commonly released “neuro” environmental pollutants with this rising trend in childhood developmental disabilities. Chief among these remain exposure to lead (and its compounds still commonly found in many household products), a well-known environmental toxicant that interferes with the normal development of a child's brain and can result in lower IQ, learning disabilities, and behaviour problems like aggression and hyperactivity. However, widespread exposure to pesticides, industrial and vehicle fine particle pollutants, and mercury are increasingly being linked to this trend.

Mercury exposure sources globally include most large predatory fish, some types of air pollution and mercury-containing products commonly found in circulation, including batteries, thermometers and other measuring devises. In artisanal and small scale gold mining (ASGM) communities worldwide, airborne exposure to mercury occurs from burning off the mercury following the amalgamation process. Researchers routinely report pregnant women and women of childbearing age burning amalgam, sometimes because the men refuse to. Approximately 10 – to 15-million people in seventy countries work in the ASGM trade (2). Additionally, chemicals known to be endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) commonly used in everyday household products such as fl ame retardants, cosmetics and everyday plastics can all have adverse impacts on the developing brains of children.

So how does this happen?

During critical stages of development, children's brains are most sensitive to the impacts from these chemicals. Some of these neuro toxic environmental chemicals, such as mercury, cross the placental barriers quite easily and affect the structure or function of the developing brain prenatally and also during infancy. Even very low levels of exposure early in life can have profound and lasting negative effects.

Similarly, researchers have linked an entire class of industrial chemicals called phthalates to asthma, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, breast cancer, obesity and type II diabetes, low IQ, neurodevelopmental issues, behavioural issues, autism spectrum disorders, altered reproductive development and male fertility issues.

And like many other industrial chemicals that have raised red flags, many of these chemicals have made it on to the production line and into common, everyday household products without the fundamental basic steps to assess their toxicity to humans having been taken. With phthalates, the research has come before any sort of regulation – companies are not even required to list phthalates on consumer product labels in the global North. However, enough distinct phthalates have been studied to indicate that companies should proceed with caution when using any chemical in the phthalate class, particularly in products for pregnant women or young children who, the research has indicated, are the most vulnerable to the effects of phthalates.

One of the first phthalates to raise a red flag, DEHP, was replaced in hundreds of consumer products with DiNP, only for researchers to discover a few years later that exposure to DiNP is correlated to male genital birth defects and impaired reproductive function in adult males (3).

Globally, the measures currently used to assess chemical risk and set safety standards fall short of protecting children around the world. Especially in the global South, children continue to be exposed to dangerous neuro-toxicants released from products, emissions in the home and from industrial sources. Many examples exist, from informal electronics recycling in Nigeria and Ghana, to massive lead and mercury exposure in many African countries from artisanal small scale mining activity, alongside widespread agricultural pesticide use.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights and hazardous substances and wastes (4) recently stated that “far more effort and resources should be devoted worldwide to protect people from the negative health impacts of toxic pollution”. This call is made in the context of an estimated 13-million deaths per year being attributed to environmental factors, which amounts to approximately one quarter of the global burden of disease (i.e. all the people who die globally.) Pollution is now thought to be the leading cause of death in low – and middle-income countries, and poor women and children who live and work in the world’s most polluted environments are most affected. Despite this trend, less than 3% of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) proposed program budget for 2016 to 2017 is dedicated to the “Health and Environment” sub-category. “The amount of work WHO dedicates to monitoring and preventing harm from toxic pollution is disproportionately low, given the impacts of pollution on human rights,” the Special Rapporteur warned.

We should be counting the costs as scientists progressively discover how chemical compounds, common in everyday products as well as in indoor and outdoor air pollution, can adversely affect early brain development during these key critical stages of development. Chemicals treaties acknowledge that the foetus is not well protected against environmental chemicals and that neurodevelopment effects are occurring. Nonetheless, countries across the world selectively implement and internalise the provisions that are aimed to protect populations from such impacts. It is thus incumbent on civil society to address and implement real risk reduction and risk management strategies.

Globally, NGOs agree that sound management of chemicals has not been given the priority it deserves. Priority on fundamental issues such as proper labelling and information on chemicals in products is critical for workers and civil society in all countries. Similarly, it needs to be recognised that the phase out of highly hazardous chemicals and pesticides in developing countries is a right of developing countries to protect their populations from large sources of exposure – measures often resisted by large transnational corporations. With the progressive implementation of chemicals treaties, often the simplest means to protect our children is to adopt a cautious approach. Alongside this, countries should integrate and mainstream chemicals management along with their sustainable development goals (SDGs). In particular, those SDGs covering health, water, and sustainable consumption and production are of direct relevance to chemicals and with a direct emphasis on risk reduction can make positive impacts on children’s health.


Notes:

(1) Elizabeth Grossman, What Are We Doing to Our Children’s Brains? published in Truthout on Feb. 20, 2015

(2) Charles W. Schmidt. (2012) Quicksilver and Gold: Mercury Pollution from Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining. Environmental Health Perspectives • volume 120 | number 11 | November 2012

(3) http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/feb/10/ phthalates-plastics-chemicals-research-analysis

(4)  Mr. Baskut Tuncak (Turkey) was appointed Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes by the UN Human Rights Council in 2014. Learn more, visit: http://www. ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Environment/ToxicWastes/Pages/ SRToxicWastesIndex.aspx

August 12, 2015Global

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Blog | A Sustainable Health Future in South Africa

The health sector is taking leadership for a sustainable future in Africa, as hospitals reduce the financial and health costs of energy

Source: groundWork - Newsletter June 2015

Over the past few years it has become clearer that human activities are increasing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. We continue to burn fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas – to satisfy our thirst for energy. This in turn has contributed significantly to the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, particularly carbon dioxide. According to a recent scary statistic reported by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), over 200 years carbon dioxide, the major greenhouse gas responsible for climate change, has increased by 30%.

The UNFCCC have held a series of annual meetings aimed at stabilizing the greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at levels that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. Carbon dioxide is causing our planet to warm up, and if left unchecked will lead to catastrophic effects on our environment and health. The UNFCCC Conference of parties (CoP) process is working towards securing a legally-binding global climate agreement on curbing carbon emissions, to be made at CoP21 in December 2015 in Paris, with a binding effect from 2020. In April 2015, the GGHH's initiative launched the 2020 Health Care Climate Challenge (HCCC), encouraging the health sector to reduce their carbon footprint and protect public health from climate change. Over twenty leading health care institutions from across the globe have already pledged to take meaningful action on climate change, by reducing their carbon emissions and therefore kicking off a worldwide campaign to mobilize hospitals and health systems to address humanity's most pressing problem.

In Africa, the Western Cape Government Health Department, which is already a member of GGHH, has pledged to the 2020 HCCC, specifically committing to "reducing its carbon footprint from energy consumption at government hospitals in the Western Cape Province… by 10% in 2020 and 30% in 2030 based on the 2005 levels, which amounts to saving about 15000 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually." This demonstrates the department's leadership in promoting a sustainable future, as they are beginning to recognise that they need to look beyond the immediacy of the doctor-patient relationship to incorporate a more global vision of environmental health.

Our hope is that within the next year or so, this will inspire other health systems and hospitals in the region to make similar commitments. As health professionals, the mandate is to prevent and cure disease, so it is necessary to lead by example and encourage others to change their own practices and policies that affect a healthy and sustainable environment.

Sustainability coordinators going global

Africa Health Congress, which is one of the continent's largest healthcare exhibitions and the leading platform for the industry to learn and connect, recently concluded its fourth congress, which took place at the Gallagher Convention Centre in Johannesburg between the 5th and 6th of May 2015. The exhibition attracted more than 7 000 healthcare professionals and hosted 500 of the world's leading healthcare suppliers, manufacturers and service providers. Thousands of new healthcare products, equipment and services were showcased by the main players in the industry. Africa Health provided an opportunity for participants to see the latest technologies on display and test them out, all under one roof.

Africa health Congress had ten parallel conferences, of which the Public Health Conference was one. The objectives of the Public Health Conference were to: explore the link between the quality of healthcare services and universal health coverage; discover South Africa's plan towards eliminating malaria; review regional and international approaches to the Ebola outbreak; evaluate the need for good leadership, implementation and management strategies; and discuss the global burden of NonCommunicable Diseases. Two GGHH Sustainability Coordinators – representing Khayelitsha Hospital and Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University – presented their case studies. This was hugely signifi cant as it propelled the practice of the GGHH initiative in South Africa onto a global platform.

The green hospital contingent included the Support Service Manager from Khayelitsha Hospital, Mrs. Annelene Du Plessis, and Dr. Eben Mouton, lecturer in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University. We presented under the theme of "Leadership and Universal Health Coverage" and our session was moderated by Julia Moorman, President of the Public Health Association of South Africa (PHASA) and Dr. Waasila Jassat, Clinical Advisor of the Aurum Institute in Johannesburg. The topics presented were:

  • "Global Green and Healthy Hospital: Global and African overview and context" – Luqman Yesufu.
  • "Energy efficiency and cost saving at Khayelitsha Hospital" – Annelene Du Plessis.
  • "Reduction in energy usage at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University" – Eben Mouton.
August 7, 2015Global

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India | Petition to Clean Up the Mercury Poisoning in Kodaikanal

Source: Jhaktaa.org

Malarkodi was exposed to mercury poisoning, along with a thousand others at Unilever's Kodaikanal thermometer assembly plant. The factory operators did not give its workers any protective equipment or information about the disastrous impact that mercury has on health.

The factory owned by Hindustan Unilever also dumped toxic mercury around their plant, and this has not been cleaned up in the 14 years since this plant was shut down. The contamination continues to impact forests and groundwater.

The workers cannot afford private healthcare. They have been fighting for Unilever to clean up the toxic contamination and compensate them for their medical expenses as a result of mercury for many long years. They need us to stand with them now, more than ever.

Paul Polman, Unilever's CEO, prides himself in heading a company that he says is accountable to its workers, and to the environment.

Let's ask him to put his words into practice by asking him to clean up his company's toxic mess and to compensate the workers who have lost their health and in some cases, their children, to Unilever's unethical practices. As the global CEO, he has the power and resources to either take unilateral action or pressure Hindustan Unilever – a Unilever subsidy – to take immediate action itself. 

Sign the petition asking for Unilever to clean up the mercury poisoning in Kodaikanal: http://www.jhatkaa.org/unilever/.

Watch the video that takes an undisguised jab at Unilever for its failure to clean up mercury contamination or compensate workers affected by its thermometer factory in Kodaikanal. 

 

August 3, 2015Global

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Lancet Releases Major Health and Climate Change Report

The Lancet published a new report, 2015 Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change: Policy Responses to Protect Public Health. An update to the landmark 2009 Lancet Commission report, this new report argues that tackling climate change could be the greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century.

Examining the latest data, the report finds that the health risks of climate change are unacceptably high, even potentially catastrophic for human survival. However, the report goes on to show that efforts to mitigate or adapt to this threat will have a direct benefit to human health, saving lives and improving the quality of life for individuals worldwide.

How we achieve this global health opportunity, the report continues, is no longer a technological or economic question – it is a political one. The report recommends that a strong international agreement, focused on moving towards a global low-carbon economy, will be critical to protect human health. 

The Role of the Health Sector and the 2020 Health Care Climate Challenge

The Lancet Commission Report on Health and Climate Change  remarks that “by moving toward low carbon health systems, health care can mitigate its own climate impact, become more resilient to the impacts of climate change, save money and lead by example.”  Indeed, working with health care to reduce its own emissions helps set the stage to engage health care’s moral, political and economic clout in addressing climate change.

2020 low res logo no gghh

2020 Health Care Climate Challenge, a global initiative that is bringing together leading hospitals and health systems from every continent to announce their commitment to measurably reducing their own carbon footprint.  The initiative is designed to garner commitments, measure footprint reduction and simultaneously forge long-term health care leadership in advocacy for climate mitigation to protect public health.  

As of June 2015, the 2020 Challenge currently has 26 participants, representing 1190 hospitals and health care facilities in 11 countries. 

June 23, 2015Global

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WHO-HCWH Collaboration Moves to New Phase

From 2008- 2014, WHO and HCWH collaborated in a global initiative aimed at demonstrating the feasibility of phasing out of mercury-based thermometers and sphygmomanometers in health care and their substitution with accurate, economically viable alternatives. 

A component of the UNEP Mercury Products Partnership, the Mercury-Free Health Care Initiative (www.mercuryfreehealthcare.org) achieved significant success in raising awareness among ministries of health, health systems and thousands of hospitals on every continent that it is possible to develop and implement policies and procedures to make the switch away from mercury.

This work provided an instrumental input into the Minamata Convention on Mercury negotiations because it showed that substituting mercury containing measuring devices in health care could be done/was achievable.

Now that the Minamata Convention is in place (including articles that require phase-out of the manufacture, import and export of mercury-thermometers and blood pressure devices by 2020), countries now need to develop and implement national, health-system wide strategies and programmes to phase out the import, manufacture and export of such devices.

Building upon lessons learned from Mercury Free Health, WHO and HCWH will continue with its commitment to work toward full implementation of the Minamata Convention and its target to phase-out mercury-based medical devices by the year 2020.   We will do so by working with governments, health systems, hospitals and health professionals, and providing technical expertise to support the transition. Care Initiative, WHO and HCWH are moving into a new phase of work and collaboration to help support countries in these efforts.

For instance, HCWH is currently working on a UNEP funded project with our partners in Brazil and South Africa to foster mercury-substitution in health care.  In addition, in 2015-17, HCWH will be engaging in a UNDP-led four country Global Environment Facility project in Africa, in which, together with WHO, we will serve as a Principle Cooperating Agency.   This project will foster sustainable health care waste management and mercury substitution in health care in Ghana, Tanzania, Zambia and Madagascar.

A major HCWH vehicle to achieve Mercury Free Healthcare by 2020 will be our Global Green and Healthy Hospitals Network www.greenhospitals.net -- a worldwide network of institutions representing the interests of more than 12,000 hospitals and health centers on every continent.   GGHH will continue to provide a series of tools and resources to support mercury substitution--- including an online community of experts to advise hospitals and health systems, a forthcoming chemicals substitution guidance document, and more.   

An archive of the www.mercuryfreehealthcare.org  website can be found here.

June 3, 2015Global

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Governments Recognize Air Pollution’s Threat to Human Health

World Health Assembly's Air Pollution Resolution is a Small First Step

The world's governments took an important step forward in recognizing air pollution as a major threat to human health, by issuing a resolution at the World Health Assembly in Geneva this week. The resolution mandates greater engagement by the World Health Organization to address a problem responsible for one out of eight deaths worldwide.

The passage of this resolution marks a significant milestone in the global consensus among health leaders that air pollution has serious and costly health consequences, and therefore requires urgent action on the part of the health sector worldwide. It follows the WHO's finding that air pollution exposure caused 7 million premature deaths in 2012, more than twice the death toll from HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined.

At the same time however, governments at the World Health Assembly were unwilling or unable to address the single most significant source of both outdoor air pollution and climate change: society's dependence on fossil fuels, particularly the combustion of coal for energy generation.

"The resolution is an important step forward in that it will raise consciousness in the health sector and empower WHO to more robustly address the problem,” said Josh Karliner, Director of Global Projects at Health Care Without Harm. “But it is only a small step at a time when we urgently need to take a giant leap to protect public health from both air pollution and climate change."

The magnitude and urgency of the problem continues to far outweigh the scale of the action. Earlier this month, an International Monetary Fund (IMF) report found that "subsidies," or societal costs of fossil fuels worldwide surpassed all health spending globally, amounting to U.S. $5.3 trillion, or 6.5% of global GDP. The IMF found that ending these subsidies would slash the number of premature deaths from outdoor air pollution by 55%, or about 1.6 million lives a year. Moving away from coal, they found, would account for a 93% share of this reduction.

Coal also accounts for one-quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions, so a transition away from coal would also protect public health from climate change. Yet the health benefits of transitioning from fossil fuels were not mentioned in the resolution.

"Solar and wind power are increasingly cost-competitive with fossil fuels in today's economy," said Karliner. "When you take the health costs and benefits of different energy choices into account, clean, renewable energy emerges the winner, hands down."

A year from now, WHO plans to propose a roadmap for an enhanced global health sector response to address the adverse health effects of air pollution.

"We hope that the WHO roadmap can help chart a global transition away from fossil fuels and towards clean, healthy renewable energy," said Dr. Renzo Guinto, Healthy Energy Initiative for Health Care Without Harm Asia.

The global health community has created an impressive Global Fund to deal with HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB,” said Dr. Guinto, "it needs to generate similar ambition to address the causes and consequences of air pollution."


About the Healthy Energy Initiative

The Healthy Energy Initiative, a program of Health Care Without Harm, is a global network of health professionals, academics, and organizations calling for a shift from coal and other fossil fuels, to clean, renewable, healthy energy. For more on the Healthy Energy Initiative’s response to the World Health Assembly air pollution resolution, visit www.healthyenergyinitiative.org

 

May 28, 2015Global

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