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Urgent action needed to tackle the threat of climate change on health, say experts


The opportunities to transform health are enormous, and the time to act is now 

Bold, innovative action is needed to tackle the threat that climate change poses to achieving universal health coverage (UHC), argue experts today.

Writing in The BMJ, as part of a collection of articles on effective universal health coverage, Ashish Jha and Renee Salas at the Harvard Global Health Institute warn that rising temperatures and extreme weather patterns are having profound consequences for human health and health systems.

As such, they call for a joint agenda on the intersecting issues of climate change and UHC to mitigate these harms and achieve health for all.

These critical issues will be discussed at the 74th United Nations General Assembly meeting on 25 September 2019 at a special event hosted by The BMJ and Harvard Global Health Institute.

UHC refers to a system which seeks to provide everyone, everywhere with access to essential quality health services without facing financial hardship. It is a key target of the United Nations sustainable development goals and a top priority for the World Health Organization.

Yet climate change is already threatening many health achievements of the past 50 years and will continue to do so at an accelerated pace unless we take action, argue Jha and Salas.

According to the World Health Organization, air pollution caused by the burning of fossil fuels leads to an additional seven million deaths annually, while climate change will cause an additional 250,000 deaths a year by 2030 from heat, undernutrition, malaria, diarrheal disease, and dengue.

“Estimates show that we have about a decade to decrease greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the most catastrophic health outcomes,” they warn.

And given that many countries most vulnerable to climate change are also those with the lowest UHC coverage, the need for a synchronised agenda to optimise UHC while mitigating climate change will be imperative, they add.

“As global decision makers aim to improve the health and quality of life for all people, they must not overlook the effects that climate change will have on disease burden and healthcare infrastructure,” they say

Only through bold, innovative, and cross disciplinary action can we tackle these unprecedented complex challenges and ensure a healthier world for future generations,” they conclude.

Read the articles here: www.bmj.com/universal-health-coverage


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