The climate crisis is a health issue

“Health and Climate are interrelated issues.” This is the main message sent to the audience during the side event “Health Impacts from Climate Change and Health Opportunities from Climate Action” hosted at the COP25 and held by the Italian Climate Network.

The event took place at the Pavilion hosting both the Italian and the UK stands. Maria Neira, director of public health and environment at the World Health Organization, facilitated a discussion aimed at deepening the nexus between climate change and health. This important topic will indeed be investigated in depth during the next COP, which would be named “Health COP” as the co-hosts Italy and the UK said.

The session started with the intervention of the the head of the Italian delegation, Federica Fricano, who traced the roadmap to the next COP among the issues of health and climate.

Successively, Diarmin Campbell Lendrum, member of the WHO, highlighted the activities of the international organization in reporting and monitoring the impacts of climate change on health. “Climate change is exacerbating several diseases such as asthma, cardiovascular diseased and the so-called non-communicable diseases”, said Lendrum. Non-communicable diseases are not directly transmissible from one person to another and they include, among others, autoimmune diseases, strokes, many heart diseases, cancers, diabetes and chronic kidney diseases. Pollution, heat waves, and high temperatures have a negative effect on these diseases.

According to Lendrum, the WHO is carrying out a worldwide survey to assess the health and climate situation of the states: until nowadays, 101 countries have participated. In the case of Italy and the UK the profile bulletin is already completed.
The attention of the scientific community on the link between health and climate is growing. In the 2019 report on health and climate change Jessica Beagley, Policy Manager of the Lancet Countdown, addressed in the fact that, a few years ago, it was very difficult to talk about climate issues among the physicians. However, nowadays, it is important for clinicians to address the topic and build bridges with environmental experts to integrate competences in order to reach a common agenda on health and climate and to put the topic at a strategic level in the implementation of the NDCs.

“Clinicians play a great role in the efforts addressing climate health”, commented Paolo Lauriola, President of the Italian Federation of Surgeons. In the last speech of the session, he presented the “Sentinel Clinician Initiative”. General doctors and hospital specialists become active actors in notifying environmental degradation. Their action has the potential to positively affect health issues and to promote healthy and sustainable lifestyles.

This initiative has already started in Italy, but Paolo launched the call to seize the chance of the next COP to recognize the figure of “Sentinel Clinicians” in other countries. The health of our planet concerns human health as well. This is the great message taken from the side event to be fostered until the next COP in Glasgow.

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