The World Health Organization was born out of international commitment to build global security and peace. Sixty years later, that same sense of vulnerability and solidarity is bringing the global community together to address the growing threat of climate change to public health security.
"Just as health and wellbeing was seen as a defining aspect of peace and security," notes Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General," so too, the health and wellbeing of populations must become the defining measure of the impact of climate change and our efforts to address it effectively".
Climate change is finding itself in an increasingly central position on the international agenda, as most recently evidenced by the Nobel Prize awarded to former US Vice President Al Gore and a team of UN experts for their work on the subject. Today, it is becoming clearer that sustainable development leads to healthy environments and enhanced public health.
"Health professionals are on the front line in dealing with the impacts of climate change. The most vulnerable populations are those who live in countries where the health sector already struggles to prevent, detect, control and treat diseases and health conditions, including malaria, malnutrition and diarrhoea. Climate change will highlight and exacerbate these weaknesses by bringing new pressures on public health, with greater frequency".
"We need to put public health at the heart of the climate change agenda," Dr Chan added. "This includes mobilizing governments and stakeholders to collaborate on strengthening surveillance and control of infectious diseases, safer use of diminishing water supplies, and health action in emergencies."
On World Health Day 2008, communities and organizations around the world will host activities to establish greater awareness and public understanding of health consequences of climate change, and to show the impact of the growing interdependency between these two areas on national and international decisions and policies.