Health sector will be most impacted by impacts from climate change and needs to prepare: Experts

First-ever document designed to prepare healthcare workers for various conversations around climate change and subsequent health impacts

15 June 2021, New Delhi: Healthy Energy Initiative India in partnership with health organizations has launched a first of its kind guidance document – “No Vaccine for #ClimateChange – A Communication Guide on Climate and Health for the Healthcare Professionals in India”. The document is designed to “prepare healthcare workers for various conversations around climate change and subsequent health impacts with their patients, communities and to respond to #Stakeholders like media, legislators, #PolicyMakers and a range of various communication purposes.

“A health worker’s voice is critical in promoting actions that address climate change and its impacts on health. They can make a big difference — with their patients, in their practice and healthcare institutions and, most importantly, in their community and policy arenas. Action on climate change provides one of our greatest health opportunities because many climate change solutions improve community environments and the public’s health and reduce health inequities. This communication guide is particularly designed to inform the health workers. Together, we have a unique opportunity to help people understand that the same pollution that compromises respiratory health also drives climate change, and, more importantly, spread the word to promote carbon-neutral practices and infrastructure in the health sector.” – Dr Ravikant Singh, Founder, Doctors For You.

The guidance document is a result of an outcome of the largest study of the Knowledge, Attitude and Practice of Health Care Professionals on Climate Change in India. The findings of the study released in February 2021, indicated that while 93% of health professional knew the basics of climate change, only about 55% of them actively raised awareness or participated in climate change related activities and events. Based on the responses, the study provided recommendations to – effectively build capacity among healthcare professionals and advocates, emphasized on the need to provide nuanced information of the multiple ways (direct, indirect and through economic and social disruption) in which health could be adversely impacted due to climate change. It further recommended that Climate Change and health impacts should be a subject in the medical curriculum for education of healthcare professionals from all streams and specializations; Healthcare professionals should be provided with information and training on the international negotiations on climate treaties, especially the Paris Agreement; and Detailed information regarding State and National Action Plans on Climate Change and Human Health, in an easy-to-understand format.

“Health professionals are both trusted communicators and important actors when it comes to protecting public health. It is only fitting, then, that they are equipped with the necessary knowledge and tools to tackle the biggest health challenge of the 21 st century, climate change. This communications guide – “No Vaccine for Climate Change” is designed to prepare health and care workers for various conversations around climate change, and its impacts on the health of their patients and their community.” – Dr Maria Neira, Director Public Health, WHO

The guidance document has incorporated the recommendations of the study and provides a comprehensive overview of the health impacts which can be expected from climate related impacts, like heat waves, floods, drought, cyclones, air pollution. Infectious diseases, allergens etc. and the preparedness required from health care professionals and health systems. Apart from covering the basic issues of climate induced impact on both physical and mental health, the document also provides a template for healthcare professionals to become effective leaders and communicators on the issue. The document prescribes sets of specific actions for potential health related impacts from climate induced disasters, that healthcare professionals could prescribe to their patients, to communities or to policy makers. It also provides suggestions for health systems. “Health Professionals can play a vital role in COP26, in making it a conference of parties that addresses health as a challenge being faced due to climate change. Although more than 59% of countries agree that human health is a priority in their climate adaption plan, there is a lack of knowledge on how to address climate change.” – Mr. Sanjay Vashist, Director, Climate Action Network South Asia

“Climate change has become the defining threat of the century and human civilization. As the world emerges from the COVID pandemic, we are once again reminded that it will be the health sector that will have to take the leadership in healing the planet and protecting the future. The health sector has to be at the front and center of action and advocacy on climate change. Indian health sector can make a substantial contribution to mitigate the effects of climate change by adopting green technologies to reduce various #GreenHouseGas emissions and decreasing energy consumption by adopting #RenewableEnergy. Health care providers also have an opportunity to be effective communicators of good science on the potential health threats and health effects that have already been documented to policy makers, urging them to act.” – Dr Arvind Kumar, Founder Trustee, Lung Care Foundation

Subject experts from state health departments of Chhattisgarh and Kerala, State Health Resource Center, Chhattisgarh, Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education Research Chandigarh, Punjab University, Health Care Without Harm, Lung Care Foundation, Doctors For You, Medical Students Association of India, Climate Trends, Climate Action Network South Asia and Azim Premji University have contributed to the document.

Download the document here:

#ClimateChange  #GreenHouseGas  #PolicyMakers  #RenewableEnergy  #Stakeholders