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The 2019 report of The Lancet Countdown on health and climate change: ensuring that the health of a child born today is not defined by a changing climate (2019)

Description

The report provides a global overview of the impacts of climate change on human health, as well as responding to climate change for health. It aims to further strengthen a global monitoring system for health and climate change and to provide an overview of health and climate change in 2018.

Under the domain of climate change impacts, exposure and vulnerability, five indicators are being monitored, namely: health and heat, health and extreme weather events, global health trends in climate sensitive disease, climate-sensitive infectious diseases and food security and undernutrition. It can be concluded that the indicators show worsening exposures and vulnerabilities along a range of temperature and precipitation pathways, with reductions in crop yield potentials, and increases in vectorial capacity for a number of climate-sensitive diseases. These effects are felt most acutely by low-income and middle-income countries across the world. Mental health might be negatively affected in various ways by heatwaves, loss of property, and loss of livelihoods due to floods, or climate-induced migration. However, although many varied links have been identified between climate and mental health, they are highly socially and culturally mediated.

The report also looks at responding to climate change for health via adaptation, planning and resilience for health. The indicators used here are adaptation planning and assessment, climate information services for health, adaptation delivery and implementation and spending on adaptation for health and health-related activities. The chapter concludes that many of the indicators are moving in a positive direction, but adaptation response from the health community remains rather slow. The number of countries with national adaptation plans for health and the number of countries and cities that have assessed health risk and vulnerabilities has increased, along with the spending on health adaptation. Thorough consideration of the best adaptation options is required before implementation.

Other sections of the report focus on mitigation actions and health co-benefits, economics and finance, as well as public and political engagement.

The conclusion is that progress in mitigation and adaptation remains insufficient. Despite this slow progress, there is also a slow response. 51 of the 101 countries tracked have developed national health adaptation plans, 70 countries provide climate information services to the health sector, 109 countries have medium to high implementation of a national health emergency framework, and 69% of cities have mapped out risk and vulnerability assessments. Health adaptation funding continues to climb, with health-related funding now responsible for 11.8% of the global adaptation spending. Finally, public and political engagement continues to grow, with heightened interest around the school climate strikes, the UNFCCC’s annual meetings, and divestment announcements from medical and health associations. There has been increasing public attention over the past year, so there is a certain response from governments, which starts matching the scale of the climate crisis. Communicating the health risks of climate change and driving the implementation of robust responses in order to improve human health and wellbeing will be the essential role of the health professionals.

The report ends with an appeal: “With the full force of the Paris Agreement to be implemented in 2020, a crucial shift must occur—one which moves from discussion and commitment, to meaningful reductions in emissions.”

In order to read the report, you might have to register free of charge on the Lancet website.

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The Lancet

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