Why the healthcare sector is prescribing climate action.

Doctors from Europe’s leading hospitals are at COP23 to determine their part in tackling climate change. It’s time to frame climate change as a public health issue, says UK health policy expert David Pencheon.

Health professionals need to be on the front line when it comes to dealing with the health effects of climate change. Extreme weather events such as hurricanes, storms, heat waves, flooding, drought, cold spells, and air pollution collectively cause millions of deaths worldwide each year. There is no doubt that climate change exacerbates these weather patterns and threatens longer-term climate stability.

But it is not just these extreme weather events that threaten health: Air pollution is also very closely linked to climate change. The Lancet recently estimated that diseases caused by pollution lead to 9 million premature deaths annually. That’s more than AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined and a stark warning that we cannot ignore.

As health professionals, we hold a privileged position in society as trusted truth brokers, and we are extremely well placed to highlight the link between climate change and health.

Effective communication from health professionals has been instrumental in tackling many public health problems in the past, most notably tobacco, HIV/AIDS, and cardiovascular disease. To date, however, little work has been done to frame climate change as a public health issue and mobilize health professionals to tackle this global problem on a local level. It is both an opportunity and the responsibility of health professionals to take a leadership role in communicating the health effects of climate change.

Health care also causes pollution

We must also not forget that the health care sector itself is also a major emitter of greenhouse gases. In the process of treating patients and healing communities, hospitals and health systems consume huge amounts of energy and resources on every continent, contributing to climate change and air pollution.

David Pencheon - Direktor für National Sustainable Development Unit for Health and Social Care in England (Privat)

In the US alone, health care is responsible for an estimated 8 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.

In the UK, although there is a long way to go, we have already taken significant steps to reduce the carbon footprint of health care. The UK health system – with the help of the National Sustainable Development Unit for Health and Social Care – has already achieved an 11 percent reduction in emissions from 2007 to 2015. We are proving that change is possible, and that making these changes not only benefits environmental and human health, it also comes with significant cost savings.

The UK health sector is now moving towards an integrated approach of addressing carbon emissions as a cornerstone of the wider challenges of sustainable development and social value, with health services as anchor organizations in their local communities.

We are very supportive of the global movement Health Care Without Harm and its “Health Care Call to Action on Climate Change.” It calls on healthcare to address its own climate impacts, and to prepare for expected serious climate-change induced extreme weather impacts.

The Call has already been signed by over 100 institutions from 29 countries, representing the interests of nearly 10,000 hospitals and health centers around the world, and is a powerful message from the sector about the need for action and leadership from all parts of the wider system.

The ambitious targets agreed upon at COP21 in Paris will require every sector to contribute if we are to have any chance of limiting global warming. As health professionals, we have an obligation to first, do no harm to both the health of our communities and the planet. The health care sector has the political and economic leverage, as well as the moral obligation to lead from the front when it comes to climate change. 

David Pencheon is the director of the NHS Sustainable Development Unit (England).

Global warming may accelerate infectious disease outbreaks: Colorado researchers

Apart from inflicting devastating disasters on frequently vulnerable communities, global warming may also spur outbreaks of infectious illnesses like Zika , malaria and dengue fever, according to a different study by researchers in the College of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.

“Climate change presents complex and wide-reaching threats to human health,” stated Cecilia Sorensen, MD, lead author from the study and also the Living Closer Foundation Fellow in Climate and Health Policy at CU Anschutz. “It can amplify and unmask environmental and socio-political weaknesses while increasing the chance of adverse health outcomes in socially vulnerable regions.”

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When disasters strike such places, she stated, the weather conditions could make the general public health crisis considerably worse.

They stated these vulnerabilities can occur anywhere. After Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, installments of West Earth disease bending the following year. Global warming in Africa seems to become growing installments of malaria. And also the recent destruction in Houston, Florida and Puerto Rico because of hurricanes may usher in additional infectious illnesses within the years ahead.

The research focused particularly on the magnitude 7.7 earthquake that struck seaside Ecuador in April 2016, coinciding by having an extremely strong El Niño event. El Niños are connected with heavy rain fall and warmer air temperatures. They’re also associated with outbreaks of dengue fever.

Sorensen, a clinical instructor in emergency medicine at CU Anschutz, is at Ecuador together with her co-authors dealing with the Walking Palms Global Initiative. These were operating a mobile health clinic following the disaster.

“We were seeing many of these viral signs and symptoms within the wake from the quake,” she stated. “We observed an enormous spike in Zika cases when the earthquake happened. Before this, there have been only a number of Zika cases within the whole country.” Actually, they found the amount of Zika cases had elevated 12-fold within the quake zone.

Zika virus is transmitted by mosquitos. Signs and symptoms are often mild however the infection may cause major abnormalities as well as dying inside a unborn child.

Warmer temperatures and elevated rain fall in the El Niño, plus a devastated infrastructure as well as an increase of individuals into bigger metropolitan areas, likely caused the spike in Zika cases, Sorensen stated.

“We saw a lot of people impacted by the earthquake which were sleeping outdoors with no shelter from nasty flying bugs, therefore we were worrying the region’s altering climate could facilitate multiplication of illnesses,” she stated. “Natural disasters can produce a niche for emerging illnesses to be released and affect more and more people.Inches

Sorensen’s team reviewed the present research around the outcomes of short-term climate changes and disease transmission. They applied individuals findings to describe the function from the earthquake and El Niño within the Zika outbreak.

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They suggest El Niño produced ideal conditions for Zika-transporting mosquitos to reproduce making more copies from the Zika virus. The hotter temperatures and elevated rain fall from El Niño have formerly been connected having a greater probability of dengue outbreaks. Warmer temperatures may also accelerate viral replication in nasty flying bugs and influence mosquitos’ development and breeding habits.

Simultaneously, the El Niño event introduced warmer ocean-surface temperatures, that have been proven to correlate with outbreaks of bug-transmitted illnesses. Estimates from remote sensing data in seaside Ecuador reveal that ocean-surface temperatures were greater than average from 2014-2016.

They also believes a rise in water scarcity following the earthquake not directly benefited bug development. The quake broken municipal water systems, forcing individuals to store water in open containers outdoors their houses. These offered to supplement habitats for bug larvae.

The brand new findings could be utilised by governments to recognize and safeguard vulnerable communities before disasters happen, Sorensen stated.

“One idea would be to develop disease mixers may use existing climate models to calculate where these vectors can have up because of climate variability,” she stated. “Applying these new models to areas which have pre-existing social vulnerabilities could identify susceptible regions, allowing us to direct healthcare sources there in advance.Inches

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