5 February 2019
WHO Board Considers Action on Health, Environment and Climate Change
UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
story highlights

The WHO Executive Board considered a draft global strategy on health, environment and climate change and a global action plan on climate change and health in SIDS.

The Board also discussed a report on WASH in health care facilities and patient safety.

1 February 2019: The World Health Organization (WHO) Executive Board discussed, during its 144th session, global action to address health-related impacts of climate change, a global action plan on climate change and health
in small island developing States (SIDS), and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in health care facilities and patient safety.

The 144th session of the Executive Board took place from 30 January to 1 February 2019 in Geneva, Switzerland. The meeting considered two documents for further development titled, ‘Draft WHO Global Strategy on Health, Environment and Climate Change: the Transformation Needed to Improve Lives and Well-being Sustainably through Healthy Environments’ (EB144/15), and ‘Draft Global Plan of Action on Climate Change and Health in Small Island Developing States’ (EB144/16). The Board also discussed a report by the Director-General titled, ‘Patient Safety: Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in Health Care Facilities’ (EB144/30).

The draft global strategy outlines the health impacts of extreme weather events, water scarcity, forced migration and the transmission of zoonotic infectious diseases as challenges for the global community. The strategy argues that more should be spent on preventive action with regard to these large-scale challenges. The strategy document presents a vision of a world in which sustainable development has eliminated the burden of disease caused by unhealthy environments – currently linked with almost one-quarter of the world’s disease burden.

Six strategic objectives are proposed, including monitoring progress towards the SDGs, in view of the links between many of the environmental determinants of health (SDG 3 on good health and well-being) with climate action (SDG 13) and sectors such as agriculture (SDG 2 on zero hunger), clean water and sanitation (SDG 6) and transport (SDG 11 on sustainable cities and communities and SDG 9 on industry, innovation and infrastructure). The draft strategy proposes that monitoring focus on change and implementation of relevant strategies at the regional and national levels, respectively.[Draft Global Strategy on Health, Environment and Climate Change]

A separate action plan specifically addresses the situation of SIDS, and references the WHO’s special initiative on climate change and health in SIDS, which was launched at the 23rd session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 23) to the UNFCCC in 2017, when Fiji held the COP Presidency. The draft plan proposes activities including: establishing a SIDS hub at WHO that will build capacity among policy makers and work with partners to connect the issue of climate change to other health and development priorities; providing health inputs to UNFCCC negotiations; and strengthening health systems in SIDS for disease prevention, climate resilience and sustainability. [Draft Global Plan of Action on Climate Change and Health in SIDS]

On WASH, the WHO Director-General’s report notes that the first global assessment conducted by WHO and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in 2015 found that nearly 40% of health care facilities lacked water, 19% did not have adequate sanitation, and 35% did not have materials for hand hygiene. The report outlines actions being undertaken by both UN agencies to address these needs, and invites the Board to provide further guidance on how the issue can be mainstreamed into health programmes, and to propose future work on WASH in health care. [Report by WHO Director-General on Patient Safety: WASH in Health Care Facilities] [WHO Web Page on 144th Session of Executive Board]

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