The World Health Organization (WHO) directs and coordinates international health within the United Nations’ system. It makes sense, then, that the worldwide organization has created a "call to action" for health professionals to address the threats from climate change, particularly as we approach the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP) this December. The health effects of climate change and the potential health co-benefits associated with clean energy options are reason enough for health professionals to engage on this topic. As a health sector, we also need to minimize the environmental impacts of our own health systems. This is why WHO is calling on the global health community "to add its voice to the call for a strong and effective climate agreement, that will save lives, both now and in the future." Please take a moment to read the call to action, sign it and pass it on.
Climate change is the greatest threat to global health in the 21st century.
Health professionals have a duty of care to current and future generations. You are on the front line in protecting people from climate impacts - from more heat-waves and other extreme weather events; from outbreaks of infectious diseases such as malaria, dengue and cholera; from the effects of malnutrition; as well as treating people that are affected by cancer, respiratory, cardiovascular and other non-communicable diseases caused by environmental pollution.
Already the hottest year on record, 2015 will see nations attempt to reach a global agreement to address climate change at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP) in Paris in December. This may be the most important health agreement of the century: an opportunity not only to reduce climate change and its consequences, but to promote actions that can yield large and immediate health benefits, and reduce costs to health systems and communities.
We call for a climate change agreement that promotes:
- Strong and effective action to limit climate change, and avoid unacceptable risks to global health.
- Scaling up of financing for adaptation to climate change: including public health measures to reduce the risks from extreme weather events, infectious disease, diminishing water supplies, and food insecurity.
- Actions that both reduce climate change and improve health, including reducing the number of deaths from cancer, respiratory and cardiovascular diseases that are caused by air pollution (currently over 7 million each year).
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