Bringing science and development together through news and analysis

Reducing the adverse health effects of climate change

This paper, published by the Bulletin of the WHO, asks what policymakers can do to reduce the adverse impacts of climate change on human health.

Climate change poses a diverse array of health risks — from more extreme weather events to shifts in disease dynamics — that will likely be concentrated in the world's poorest nations. The impacts are potentially huge, say the authors — many of the biggest global killers, including malaria, are sensitive to climatic conditions.

But, argue the authors, many of the predicted impacts could be avoided through public health interventions in the short-term, and adaptation in health-related sectors such as agriculture and water management in the longer term.

One key action is improving disease surveillance to detect outbreaks early, and strengthening response systems, including predefined action plans. These are critical to managing any infectious disease — but become even more important under conditions of rapid change.

Equally important will be disease prevention measures that address the root causes of vulnerability, say the authors. For example, scaling up water and sanitation services to reduce the burden of waterborne disease and improving land management policies to prevent flooding and control outbreaks of vector-borne disease.

Changing unhealthy energy and transport services would also reduce carbon emissions and cut the near-million deaths each year from outdoor air pollution. Such improvements in environmental conditions could reduce the global disease burden by more than 25 per cent, estimates the WHO.

Link to full article in the Bulletin of the WHO [128kb]