WHO “Atlas” links climate change and health

climate change health

If climate and health services worked together lives could be saved with better preparedness, early-warning systems and risk reduction.

Changes to the world’s climate is having an effect on the health of millions of people around the globe. The World Health Organisation has published an Atlas of health and climate in conjunction with the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

Cyclones, floods and droughts affect the health of millions of people every year. Climate variability and extreme conditions such as floods can cause epidemics of illnesses such as diarrhoea, malaria and dengue fever, which can cause death and suffering for millions.

The maps, tables and charts in the Atlas demonstrate links between climate and health:

  • In some regions the incidence of infectious diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, meningitis and cholera can vary by factors of 100 between seasons. The incidence varies significantly between years depending on climate and weather conditions. With stronger climate data in endemic countries, authorities could better predict the onset, intensity and duration of epidemics.
  • Case studies illustrate how the collaboration between meteorological, emergency and health services is saving lives. The death toll from cyclone of similar intensity in Bangladesh fell from around 500,000 in 1970, to 140,000 in 1991 to 3,000 in 2007. This decrease is largely thanks to improved early warning systems and better preparedness.
  • Heat extremes that would currently be expected to occur once every 20 years could happen as frequently as every couple of years by the middle of this century. At the same time, the number of older people (one of the most vulnerable groups) living in cities will almost quadruple globally. From 380 million in 2010 to 1.4 billion in 2050. Cooperation between health and climate services can better prevent heat related deaths.

“Stronger cooperation between the meteorological and health communities is essential to ensure that up-to-date, accurate and relevant information on weather and climate is integrated into public health management at international, national and local levels,” said WMO Secretary-General Mr Michel Jarraud in a statement.

Image: gatyesz (SXC.hu)