G7 Health Ministers Recognize Impacts of Environmental Degradation on Human Health
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The Group of 7 (G7) Health Ministers adopted a Communiqué in which they commit to a number of actions to address the impacts of environmental degradation, along with other factors, on human health.

To inform the meeting, OECD prepared a report that highlights three areas in which health systems can contribute to decreasing the human footprint on the environment: promoting a healthier diet for a green environment; contributing to development of sustainable cities; and supporting active travel policies.

6 November 2017: The Group of 7 (G7) Health Ministers recognized an urgent need to build political momentum on addressing the impacts of environmental degradation on health. The ministers adopted a Communiqué that outlines key global health challenges, discusses the impacts of environmental factors on health, highlights gender perspectives on health policies and rights for women, children and adolescents, and addresses antimicrobial resistance.

The G7 Health Ministers’ Meeting convened from 5-6 November 2017, in Milan, Italy, under the Italian presidency of the G7. The meeting focused on three main issues: environment; antimicrobial resistance; and gender equality.

The Communiqué titled, ‘United towards Global Health: common strategies for common challenges,’ recognizes several issues as global health challenges, including conflict, social inequalities, urbanization, environmental-related factors and increased movement or displacement of people. It observes that some environment-related factors contribute to health risks, such as air, biodiversity, water and soil pollution, water scarcity, food insecurity and malnutrition, extreme weather events, sea level rise and ocean acidification, shifting patterns of infectious diseases, and increased migration. In line with previous commitments and the objectives of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its SDGs, the Communiqué reiterates the importance of strengthening health systems through paths towards universal health coverage (UHC) and achieving the principles of leaving no one behind and reducing inequalities in health services.

The Communiqué highlights the role of education and training in disseminating knowledge of complex, interlinked environmental and health issues.

On the impacts of environmental factors on health, the Communiqué recognizes that climate and environment-related factors can aggravate existing health risks and create new threats, such as changes to food and water security, aggravation of gender inequalities, international migration and increased incidence of vector-, food-, water-borne and non-communicable diseases (NCDs), among other potential changes. Ministers commit to strengthen surveillance systems to identify and analyze emerging risks, including climatic early warning systems, and to adapting and improving the resilience of health systems and communities, particularly for vulnerable and marginalized groups. The Communiqué underscores the role of education, training and development to achieve the SDGs, and highlights the role of the educational and training system in disseminating knowledge of complex, interlinked environmental and health issues. The Communiqué further reiterates Ministers’ commitment to: reduce the burden of NCDs, ensure environmentally sound management of chemicals and waste throughout their life cycle; decrease exposure to air pollution, including by reducing emissions in urban areas; and achieve access to safe drinking water and sanitation.

On gender and health, Ministers reaffirm their commitment to promoting gender equality in the health policy sector, and commit to taking concrete actions to strengthen health systems, policies, laws and programs to support the empowerment of women and girls. Ministers also commit to paying particular attention to maternal, newborn and child health, including by closing gaps on adolescents’ health, and to addressing health and nutrition. Ministers invite the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to benchmark mental health performance with a focus on adolescents. They condemn sexual and gender-based violence and human trafficking.

In advance of the meeting, the OECD produced a report to inform G7 Health Ministers and other stakeholders of the main policy issues related to environmental pollution and health, and suggested policy actions that G7 health authorities can implement to decrease the human footprint on the environment and improve population health. The report titled, ‘Healthy people, healthy planet,’ highlights how food waste, food overconsumption, unhealthy diets, unsustainable city growth and an over-reliance on personal cars for transport contribute to environmental pollution while also having a negative effect on health.

The report describes three areas in which health systems can contribute to decreasing the human footprint on the environment: promoting a healthier diet for a green environment; contributing to development of sustainable cities; and supporting active travel policies. The report then elaborates on three key policy recommendations: support the development and implementation of nutritional guidelines promoting healthier food consumption to reduce stress on environmental resources and reduce the environmental footprint in hospitals and nursing homes by encouraging healthier food consumption, reducing waste and promoting cleaner energy generation; create partnerships with stakeholders across the agriculture, environment and transport sectors to incorporate environmental and health considerations into urban planning; and implement public health actions to encourage physical activity and increase reliance on active modes of transport.

In the Communiqué, the G7 Ministers note that the OCED’s work on this topic could be further explored to evaluate the environmental benefits and work productivity of recommended policy actions, in coordination with UN Environment (UNEP) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

On future work, the Communiqué looks forward to health-related programs during the UN Climate Change Conference in November 2017 and the Third UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-3), which is focusing on the theme, ‘Towards a Pollution-Free Planet,’ in December 2017. [G7 Health Communiqué] [OECD Report Landing Page] [Healthy people, healthy planet]


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