Disasters: Preparedness and Mitigation in the Americas, Issue No.116, December 2011
Action needed to mitigate the effects of climate change on health
The PAHO/WHO Directing Council, at its 51st Meeting held in Washington, D.C., in September 2011, approved a Strategy and Plan of Action on Climate Change. It calls for countries to strengthen the ability of health systems to monitor and analyze climate change, to promote joint efforts of health and other sectors to reduce climate-related health risks, and to reduce the carbon footprint of the health sector in each country.
The regional strategy requires both mitigation and climate change adaptation measures, and proposes a wide variety of actions, among them:
Strengthen regional, national, and local capacity to respond to public health needs during emergencies related to climate change;
Develop national campaigns to raise awareness of health risks resulting from climate change;
Conduct studies to assess the vulnerability of the population and of population groups to climate change and to identify appropriate adaptation measures;
Include climate and environmental health indicators in surveillance systems to provide evidence that will support decision-making and actions taken to reduce health risks associated with climate;
Adopt energy-saving measures in hospitals and other health sector facilities;
Support research on the impact of climate change on health by focusing on socioeconomic and gender inequalities and on vulnerable groups;
Strengthen primary health care services, including prevention programs, so that communities will become more resilient to the impact of climate change on health;
Establish new PAHO/WHO Collaborating Centers to study the effects of climate change and support training at the national and regional level.
The plan also encourages countries to develop national strategies for climate change and for PAHO/WHO to provide technical cooperation and promote partnerships to support these efforts.