June 15 / Bonn
If we don’t act now by plugging holes in public health system along with addressing housing, water woes and air pollution, says WHO
By Aditya Ghosh
Bonn, June 15: Investing on public health to strengthen weak areas that would be vulnerable to climate induced changes must start immediately to avoid major health catastrophe, epidemic and long term health hazards. A report by the World Health Organisation that draws from seven pilot studies across seven countries in the Europe and Central Asia said that the work has to start now to avoid more expensive intervention later.
Greener investments in transport, housing and household energy policies can help prevent significant cardiovascular and chronic respiratory disease, obesity-related conditions and cancers, said another WHO report.
The pilots were carried out in Albania, Republic of Macedonia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and the Russian Federation.
The lessons range from simply augmenting water supplies to public health centres and hospitals to carrying out detailed epidemiological studies in certain areas to be better prepared for climate induced illnesses.
These sites were selected after modeling them against Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) assessment reports about climate threats that these regions would face with temperature increase, changing rainfall patterns and glacier melting.
Another WHO series looked systematically, for the first time ever, at the health 'co-benefits' of investments in climate change mitigation reviewed by the IPCC. The report claimed that overall, sustainable development policies in housing, transport, and household energy may benefit health right away - even if the broader climate gains are realized over years or decades.
The report also recommends climate experts, including the IPCC, need to put health at the center of mitigation efforts.
For example, in the case of more climate-friendly housing, the immediate savings in health care costs from home energy-efficiencies and home insulation programmes may be so large that they could rapidly repay investments made ― even if savings in greenhouse gas emissions take longer to realize. The report on housing, the first full report of the series to be issued, was released on June 14.
Many forms of asthma and allergies, as well as heart disease and strokes related to increasingly intense heat waves and cold spells could be addressed by more climate-friendly housing measures, the report found.
For instance, about 4 per cent of the annual ischaemic heart disease (IHD) disease burden among African and Latin American adults over 30 could be avoided by 2020 with introduction of more advanced biomass or biogas stoves in pace with the same UN universal energy access target. Here, too, many health benefits will be realized over a course of several years, due to the chronic nature of the disease.