|Action Urged to Mitigate the Health Effects of Climate Change|
Measures will strengthen health systems and reduce their carbon footprint
Washington, D.C, 30 September 2011 (PAHO/WHO) – Health officials from throughout the Americas agreed today to take a series of actions to prepare their countries to cope with and mitigate the health effects of climate change.
Saying that climate change poses a threat to public health and that its impact will be felt most by vulnerable populations, health leaders from North, Central and South America and the Caribbean vowed to strengthen their health systems and take other measures to respond to climate change and its effects on health.
The officials endorsed a new strategy and plan of action on climate change during the 51st Directing Council meeting of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), which was held in Washington, D.C., this week.
The new strategy calls for countries to equip their health systems to monitor and analyze climate change and its health effects, promote joint efforts between the health sector and other sectors to reduce climate-related health risks, and reduce the carbon footprint of the health sector, among other measures.
PAHO/WHO experts on environmental health note that climate change has both direct and indirect impacts on health. Direct effects include heat stress on the human body during heat waves and injuries sustained in weather disasters. Indirect effects include malnutrition due to climate-related crop failures, water insecurity as a result of droughts, and increases in water-borne diseases or diseases spread by insect vectors, such as dengue, yellow fever and malaria.
Extreme weather can also cause social and economic dislocation, including population displacement. Small-island states in the Caribbean are particularly vulnerable to rises in sea levels.
In the Americas, rapid, unplanned urban growth and rural settlements in areas vulnerable to flood and droughts increase the public health risks of climate change. The most vulnerable population groups include children under 5, pregnant and nursing women, older adults, the poor and socially excluded, indigenous and other ethnic groups, and migrant and displaced populations.
The regional strategy approved today calls for actions to both mitigate and adapt to the impact of climate change, including:
The plan also calls on countries to develop national climate change strategies and for PAHO/WHO to provide technical cooperation and promote partnerships to support these efforts.
The PAHO Directing Council brings ministers of health and other high-level delegates from PAHO/WHO member countries to Washington each year to debate health policy and set priorities for PAHO’s technical cooperation programs and for regional collaboration in public health.