The World Meteorological Congress agreed to scale up services to protect public health as climate-related illnesses, premature deaths, malnutrition and threats to mental health and well-being are on the rise.
A new resolution states that “accelerated implementation of life-saving preparedness and early warnings of extreme heat, biohazards and other risks to human health should occur in coordination with the Early Warning for All Initiative, relevant national health authorities and relevant research. from WMO. and programs. »
There is growing concern about the impact of extreme temperatures, droughts, floods and storms on both public health (injuries and deaths, disease outbreaks, malnutrition) and health infrastructure. Air pollution, including sand and dust and chemicals carried by the environment, add to the health burden.
“The health community urgently needs personalized information,” said Joy Shumake Guillemot, who heads the Joint Office on Climate and Health of the WMO and the World Health Organization (WHO).
In its Sixth Assessment Report, the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change emphasizes the need for transformational changes in health systems and that proactive, timely and effective adaptation can reduce and potentially avert many risks to health and well-being. be human.
Great strides have been made in recent years to protect public health through a wide range of measures. These include:
– Early heat alerts and action plans
– Seasonal forecasts on temperatures and rainfall that allow the health sector to plan ahead, including for waterborne diseases and malnutrition
– Air quality and UV alerts and warnings
Congress endorsed a 2023–2033 Plan of Implementation for advancing climate, environmental, and health sciences and services.
The ten-year plan aims to achieve “better health and well-being for people facing existing and emerging extreme weather events, climate change and environmental risks through the effective integration of climate, environment and health sciences and services across the world. world”.
This promotes a coordinated approach to managing the impact of weather, climate, air pollution, UV radiation, extreme events and other environmental factors on health.
WMO and WHO, through the Joint Office on Climate and Health, have an increasing number of joint technical activities, including the establishment of a new ClimaHealth portal, which is a one-stop shop for climate and health information.
Speakers at the Congressional session expressed particular concern about the rise of climate-related diseases such as malaria and dengue, as well as extreme heat, which is also closely associated with wildfires and health risks related to air quality.
Hundreds of millions of people are experiencing more frequent and intense heat waves, which start earlier and end later than in the past. Extreme heat is therefore an area of focus for the UN’s Early Warnings for All initiative and for climate adaptation strategies, because heat and health early warnings and action plans have a proven track record of saving countless lives.
Heat action plans incorporate early warning, preparedness strategies and response systems to protect urban and rural areas. They can help coordinate government and civil society efforts to protect both the general population and vulnerable groups such as the elderly. They have been successfully deployed in many regions of the world – by developed and developing countries alike. So, for example, India and Pakistan have successfully reduced death rates through coordinated heat action plans.
WMO is a co-sponsor of the Global Heat Health Information Network, along with WHO and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This aims to raise awareness and capacity to better manage and adapt to the health risks of a dangerously hot climate in a changing climate.