WHO Report Outlines Co-Benefits of Climate Protection, Health System Resilience
Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth
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A risk assessment conducted by WHO estimates that climate change is expected to cause more than 250,000 additional deaths per year from 2030 to 2050.

With only 24 out of 53 Member States of the WHO European Region including health in their national adaptation strategies, and the report calls for greater ambition in the context of the Paris Agreement, SDGs, and Health 2020.

20 December 2017: The World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Europe issued a report on protecting health from climate change, stressing the need for the health sector to transition to climate-resilient practices. It notes that protecting health from climate change, previously a “niche topic,” is an activity requested by the Paris Agreement on climate change and the SDGs.

The report, titled ‘Protecting Health in Europe from Climate Change: 2017 Updates,’ recommends that governments include climate change in national health programming. It notes that climate change has regional and global impacts on the health sector, including extreme weather events, changing distribution of infectious diseases, and shifting patterns of non-communicable disease. A risk assessment conducted by WHO estimates that climate change is expected to cause more than 250,000 additional deaths per year from 2030 to 2050.

It shows that mitigating climate change can “co-benefit” environment, human health and socio-economic development both directly and indirectly. For example, reducing carbon emissions through reduced dietary saturated fat consumption from animal products can also improve nutrition and reduce cardiovascular disease.

The report suggests that health professionals can lead in climate mitigation and adaptation because benefits from cutting emissions can also benefit the resilience of health systems, and they have experience and capacity to promote behavioral adaptation among communities, such as heat-wave preparedness and disaster response capacity. In the foreword to the report, Elizabet Paunovic, Head of WHO European Centre for Environment and Health, points out the need for the health community “to protect health from climate change in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals and Health 2020.” Health 2020 is the new European health policy framework that aims to support action across government and society to improve the health, equality, and sustainability.

With 24 out of 53 Member States of the WHO European Region including health in their national adaptation strategies, the report emphasizes that greater ambition is needed, in areas such as enhancing disease surveillance for climate-sensitive vector-borne diseases, monitoring and modelling changes for air pollution, and improving planning and response for extreme weather events. [Publication Landing Page] [Publication: Protecting Health in Europe from Climate Change: 2017 Update]

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