Dragging health up the climate change agenda

Cracked Earth in Nature Reserve of Popenguine in Senegal

The realities of climate change. Photo credit: Flickr / UN Photo-Evan Schneider

Those in the know about the draft agenda for the Copenhagen climate change meeting next month have bad news: health does not seem to be high on the agenda.

This may well change as the meeting draws closer, but panellists at a session yesterday on climate change and health equity suggested that the poor links between health researchers and environment experts may explain part of this disconnect.

Look through the pages of the BMJ, The Lancet and Nature and you’ll find most papers on links between climate change and health written by researchers who study the social determinants of health.

Their input is vital for explaining how alterations in living conditions or air quality will affect health, but climate science is complex and the technologies developed to study it are continuously being updated. Environmental scientists, meanwhile, publish their own papers separately.

BMJ editor Fiona Godlee, who chaired yesterday’s session, wants to see an end to this “silo mode of operation”. Forging stronger links between the disciplines should ensure that climate agreements cannot ignore health impacts.

Kumanan Rasanathan, a WHO technical officer on ethics, equity, trade and human rights, summed it up well: “It’s time that the rhetoric around intersectoral collaboration be put into practice,” he said.

Priya Shetty, http://www.scidev.net, priya4876@gmail.com

One Response to Dragging health up the climate change agenda

  1. The whole level of engagement in reducing climate change might actually increase if individual health was shown to the public to have a linkage with climate change.

    Unfortunately, a number of governments probably don’t want this because it means that strategies of inaction would be shown to be endangering people’s lives.

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