The New York Times published a blog (http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/06/the-baffling-nexus-of-climate-change-and-health/) on the difficulty in establishing clear scientific evidence of the effects of climate change on public health. The consensus of many experts, including several from within the United States Government, seems to be that the connections between the two fields need much more rigorous analysis, despite all of the circumstantial evidence linking them.
The Weekly Climate Change and Health News Roundup is your place for all the latest news on the health effects of climate change around the world.
Recently, city leaders have started to consider strategies for coping with the coming effects of climate change in Massachusetts. With the average annual temperature already on the rise — up 1.5 degrees over the past 100 years — Greater Boston communities are looking at ways to handle the effects an increased number of heat waves could have on our health.
United States: "Climate Change & Health: Dramatic Rise in West Nile Virus"
Over the past week, twenty-eight people in the US have died from West Nile Virus as the number of cases rose from 693 from 390 over a one week period, a USA Today article reports this morning.
Fielding urged lawmakers to restore funding to the Centers for Disease Control to help local public health departments prepare for insect-borne diseases and other side effects of climate change.
United States: "Is Climate Change to Blame for This Year's West Nile Outbreak?"
According to the Centers for Disease Control, there have been over 1100 reported cases of West Nile virus disease in the US this year, including 42 deaths. If these numbers seem high, they are – in fact, it’s the highest number of reported cases since West Nile was first detected in the US in 1999, and West Nile season has just begun.
Rio+20 was a once-in-a-generation opportunity to shape the future we want for our children and future inhabitants of our planet. Despite the high expectations the world had for Rio+20, the final declaration here failed to address the central dilemma of protecting the environment while encouraging human development and growth. The Rio+20 declaration lacks ambition, commitment and respect for our future generations. It is, instead, an attack on human rights and inter-generational justice.
While the overall outcome of Rio+20 was a failure, there were some bright spots. For example, health was recognized as an integral issue for sustainable development. The Rio+20 declaration states that health is “a precondition for, an outcome of, and indicator of all three dimensions of sustainable development.” The declaration also recognizes that “the global burden and threat of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) constitutes one of the major challenges for sustainable development in the twenty-first century” and recommends governments commit to strengthening health systems to provide equitable, universal coverage and promote affordable access to prevention, treatment, care and support related to NCDs.
The advancement of health at Rio was the result of advocacy by the World Health Organizations, health and human rights NGOs such as the Public Health Institute, and several national delegations such as Brazil . While health issues were integrated in the declaration, the lack of progress on other critical sustainable development issues from the Rio+20 process, as well as the lack of vision and the absence of significant commitments, is of great concern. There is some hope that these shortcomings could be overcome during the drafting of global Sustainable Development Goals to succeed the Millennium Development Goals, although the process over the next several years for doing so is unclear.
Many civil society groups have expressed disappointment with the process and have refused to endorse the Rio+20 declaration. For example, the human rights cluster jointly stated “The future that we want has commitment and action to reverse the environmental and economic crisis, not postpone it.” The challenge now is to move our governments and institutions toward demanding new thinking. We must also motivate the grassroots and consider creating a new mechanism to represent the interest of future generations in sustainability and climate negotiations.
Food and nutrition security, health, gender equality, climate change and environmental degradation, including loss of biodiversity are closely interlinked. Climate change and environmental degradation undermine the ability of people to move out of poverty and compromise their full enjoyment of human rights. This has a direct impact on the health and food and nutrition security of millions of people – particularly women and their children.
There are 925 million hungry people in the world and three quarters of all hungry people in the world – some 700 million – live in rural areas. Half of them are farming families, who survive of marginal lands or holdings too small to support their needs, while the other half are landless families dependent on farming, herding, fishing or forest resources, as well as the urban poor. Food and nutrition insecurity and ill health are associated with poverty and gender inequality: 60 percent of chronically hungry people are women and girls. Furthermore, globally and with few exceptions, rural women fare worse than rural men and urban women and men for every indicator for which data are available.
Several factors are critical to countering these challenges:
- Women’s empowerment, engagement and transformational leadership play a critical role in the shift to sustainable and resilient development pathways that ensure global health, food and nutrition security and prosperity. Increasing women’s access to and control over productive resources would enable them to increase yields on their farms, leading to increased incomes. Research indicates that an increase in women’s incomes translates into improved child nutrition, health and education.
- A climate justice approach with an emphasis on protecting human rights, participation, transparency and accountability, together with investments in social safety nets and in sustainable livelihoods, can make development more inclusive and equitable.
- Integrated strategies are needed to address the interlinked issues of food and nutrition security, health, gender equality, climate change and environmental degradation.
Stakeholders in the different fields have identified successful strategies for addressing the challenges that climate change and environmental degradation pose to food and nutrition security and health. But there is a tendency to address these issues through siloed approaches, which reduces their effectiveness and impact. The future we want should ensure that these strategies are integrated and addressed from a gender responsive and human rights perspective. This calls for effective, transparent and results-oriented partnerships working together to achieve equitable and climate-resilient sustainable development.
Multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholders partnerships are critical to promoting synergies and reaching common goals on food and nutrition security, health and climate change in the context of RIO+20 and the post-2015 MDG framework. Key priorities must be to protect and build human and social capital, focusing on education, social protection and capacity building; to protect and uphold human rights and to adopt a climate justice approach to these linked challenges; to address gender inequalities and to socially and economically empower women; to support civil society organizations so that they can better interact with the public and private sectors and more effectively engage in policy dialogue with governments; and to build government capacity for joint planning across ministries and sectors. This also requires aligned donor support for cross-sectoral programming and implementation among UN agencies and other stakeholders.
The Public Health Institute organized in collaboration with the World Food Program, the World Health Organization, Food and Agriculture Organization, IFAD, MRFCJ and UNDP a high level event in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 />Rio+20 “Partnerships for the integration of food and nutrition security, health and gender equality to achieve climate-resilient sustainable development.” You can see the event at http://www.uncsd2012.org/rio20/index.php?page=view&nr=908&type=13&menu=23
Here is a link to the Policy Brief launched at the event:
For more information, please read the Outreach magazine from the Stakeholder Forum featured this event and the associated interview :
Unsustainable development, environmental degradation and climate change, volatile markets and governance issues have led to resource scarcity, poverty and food and nutrition insecurity in many regions.
While almost 1 billion people suffer from under-nutrition, more than a billion adults worldwide were overweight in 2010, and 500 million adults are clinically obese. Obesity and many chronic diseases are related to diets with high saturated fats and to low fruit and vegetable intake such as CVD , diabetes and cancer were the cause of 63% of the global deaths (35 million deaths), 80% of which were in low and middle-income countries. This is called the double-burden of malnutrition which affects mainly low and medium income countries. Poverty, inequities and access issues are at the heart of this dichotomous challenge.
Strategies that aim to bring co-benefits to health and the environment through sustainable food production and consumption, and food waste reduction can generate greater overall benefits for food and nutrition security, health, climate and environment protection. Sustainable diets are promoted as strategies to direct consumers choices towards more sustainable and healthy food patterns.
Sustainable diets are healthy (i.e. rich in fruits, vegetables and legumes and low in saturated fats from animal origin), environmentally sustainable and socially equitable. Sustainable diets also address under-nutrition, ecosystems degradation, and biodiversity loss. This represents a swift shift towards a health-promoting agriculture and food policies.
Health promoting agriculture and food policies provide incentives to the production of fruits, vegetables and legumes which have a positive impact on health while reducing GHG emissions. Producing and consuming fewer animal-based foods helps to lower the intake of saturated fats associated with heart disease, high blood pressure and obesity while reducing environmental impact. In this context, we need an inclusive agriculture that is accessible to people, resilient and provides nutritious, safe and healthy food while protecting and conserving natural resources, ecosystems and their functions. Decreasing under-nutrition while promoting healthy and sustainable food production systems and consumption patterns will require strong transparent intersectoral and multistakeholders partnerships worldwide.
The Center of Public Health and Climate Change at PHI has co-organized with WFP, IFOAM and Biovision a learning event on "Reshaping food access and consumption patterns to ensure nutritional needs while fostering healthy and sustainable eating habits worldwide” at the Agriculture and Rural Development Day in Rio+20 See http://www.agricultureday.org/learning-events, The Center was also addressing the agriculture R&D needs for nutrition and health you can see us at http://www.agricultureday.org/programme.
As those who have followed the United Nations proceedings on non communicable diseases (NCDs) know, one piece of unfinished business is the establishment of global targets to help quantify the global response to this increasing epidemic. On May 25, the delegates to the World Health Assembly took a large step in that direction, by agreeing to the world's first NCD target. As widely reported, including hereand here, delegates from 194 countries agreed to the goal of slashing premature deaths from NCDs such as cardiovascular disease, chronic lung disease, cancer and diabetes by 25 percent by the year 2025. The resolution also laid out a timetable through the end of October 2012, during which the international community will discuss and perhaps adopt other targets related to NCDs, including on obesity, alcohol, tobacco, physical inactivity.
Organizations including the NCD Alliance trumpeted the adoption of the global NCD mortality reduction goal as a singular achievement that will have a lasting impact. This is certainly an accomplishment, based upon the fact that fewer than five years ago, the idea of attacking the scourge of NCDs might have seemed quixotic at best. World leaders meeting in 2007 would not have been aware of the problem of NCDs increasing dramatically in low- and middle-income countries, let alone able to come to agreement on a numerical target.
But what does it actually mean that there is now such a target? In fact, many other targets have come and gone with varying success. The Millennium Development Goals, for example, adopted at the dawn of the 21st century with much fanfare by the governments that make up the United Nations, were supposed to be achieved by 2015, a scant three years from now. But many of these are far from achieved, and several -- including the goal of reducing maternal mortality by 75 percent -- seem completely out of reach. The new NCD target is entirely voluntary and unenforceable. There is no sanction against nations that do not meet it. And there are also significant data collection challenges since the majority of countries do not keep accurate statistics on cause of death.
And yet, most global health experts agree that having such a target will certainly spur action. Organizations including the UN Development Program and the World Bank are beginning to factor NCD prevention and treatment into their country planning on the assumption that countries where they work will request additional assistance. And some nations may take the additional step of adopting national programs and frameworks to reduce the prevalence of NCDs. Regional organizations such as the Pan American Health Organization are adopting strategies to help nations better plan for their own NCD mortality reduction work.
Of the 36 million deaths attributable to NCDs in 2008, the World Health Organization estimates that "a large percentage" are preventable through the reduction in four risk factors: tobacco use, physical inactivity, harmful use of alcohol and an unhealthy diet. These factors together account for at least 11.5 million deaths. In addition, at least 2 million fatal cases of cancer are attributed to infections that are preventable. And millions more people die because of disease stemming from eating unhealthy foods high in salt, sugar and fat. In all, reducing these factors by 25 percent could save at least 3.3 million lives every year.
As WHO Director General Margaret Chan said during the UN High Level Meeting in September 2011, quoting management expert Peter Drucker, "What gets measured gets done." Put another way, until we start measuring the problem, we don't even know how large a problem we have to solve. That alone should be enough to get us started.