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WMA backs WHO in call for more doctor involvement in fighting air pollution

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The first World Health Organisation conference on air pollution was held in October-November in Geneva, Switzerland.

In its report on air pollution and child health, the WHO said health professionals should help shape public health policy on reducing the exposure of pregnant women, children and adolescents to air pollution. 

The report adds that health professionals are trusted sources of information and guidance and play an important role not only in treating ill health caused by air pollution but also in educating families and patients about risks and solutions and communicating with the broader public and decision-makers.

This role must be amplified, and the broader health sector must become more engaged in preparing a comprehensive approach to addressing this crisis, the Who report states.

“Polluted air is poisoning millions of children and ruining their lives,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“This is inexcusable. Every child should be able to breathe clean air so they can grow and fulfil their full potential.”

The World Medical Association has echoed the call.

Speaking at the WHO conference, Dr Lujain Alqodmani from the WMA welcomed the call and said health professionals must be well informed about air pollution health risks and what measures can be taken to combat the crisis.

One suggestion would be to follow the example of Kuwait University, which has included air pollution as a main environmental health determinant in its medical curriculum. 

She said at the WHO conference that the whole health workforce needed to be equipped with the right skills to address air pollution health risks as part of the initial clinical patient evaluation.

Medical education institutions should produce advocacy teaching materials about air pollution and health and be accessible through online tools to health workers and implemented by health care institutions.

“Physicians around the world are aware of air pollution. It impacts the quality of life for hundreds of millions of people worldwide, causing both, a large burden of disease as well as economic losses and increased health care costs,” Dr Alqodmani said.