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Tracking the impact of climate change on health

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The World Health Organisation (WHO) has launched the second round of its Climate and Health Country profiles – providing updated national level evidence on health risks and opportunities, and tracking progress.

The WHO UNFCCC Climate and Health Country Profile Project aims to provide country-specific, evidence-based snapshots of the climate hazards and health risks facing countries.

The project has strengthened the linkages between climate and health communities; promoted innovative research on national climate hazard and health impact modelling; and engaged an inter-ministerial network of climate and health focal points to develop, advance and disseminate the findings.

Climate change undermines access to safe water, adequate food, and clean air, exacerbating the approximately 12.6 million deaths each year that are caused by avoidable environmental risk factors.

Between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250 000 additional deaths per year, from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress, and billions of dollars in direct damage costs to health.

WHO works with countries across the world to protect the most vulnerable populations from the health effects of extreme weather events, and to increase their resilience to long-term climate change.

At the same time, the policy decisions and polluting energy sources that are causing climate change are also causing direct health impacts, most notably contributing to the 6.5 million deaths each year from air pollution.

Through the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, countries have made commitments to cut carbon pollution, for example through promoting cleaner energy sources, and more sustainable urban transport systems, that will also protect and improve the health of their own populations. WHO is supporting countries to assess the expected health gains from their Paris commitments, and to promote policy choices that bring the greatest benefits both to health, and the environment.

The Lancet has called climate change: “The biggest global health threat of the 21st century.”

The Lancet’s report Managing the Health Effects of Climate Change, states that the effects of climate change on health will affect most populations in the next decades and put the lives and wellbeing of billions of people at increased risk. 

The next series of WHO’s climate and health country profiles will be released in 2019.

The just released list can be found at: http://www.who.int/globalchange/resources/countries/en/

The AMA’s Position Statement on Climate Change and Human Health can be viewed at: position-statement/ama-position-statement-climate-change-and-human-health-2004-revised-2015