The World Health Organization (WHO) has launched the first global knowledge-sharing platform dedicated to the health effects of climate change.
In response to growing calls for actionable information to protect people from the health effects of climate change, WHO have worked alongside the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) to launch climahealth.info.
It is well established that the effects of climate change, such as extreme weather events and environmental degradation fundamentally impact human health and well-being. Increasing numbers of people are being exposed to climate-related health risks. These risks include poor water and air quality, infectious disease, and heat stress.
Protecting vulnerable people from the effects of climate change
“Climate change is killing people right now. It is affecting the basics we need to survive – clean air, safe water, food, and shelter – with the worst impacts being felt by the most vulnerable,” said Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, co-ordinator of WHO’s climate change and health programme.
“Unmitigated climate change has the potential to undermine decades of progress in global health. Reducing its impacts requires evidence-based policy backed by the best available science and tools.”
WHO believes that the use of tailored climate and environmental science, alongside tools for public health can have significant life-saving effects. WHO researchers are using tools such as disease forecasting and heat health early warning systems to improve their knowledge of the health effects of climate change and help at-risk populations.
WHO and WMO decided to launch a global open-access platform to share this knowledge and create a go-to technical reference point for health issues surrounding the environment and climate change. The site will be the public face of the WHO-WMO Joint Technical Programme and will bring together expertise from both organisations.
Sharing knowledge to improve research
“We often speak with public health practitioners who are concerned about the environmental impacts on health they are witnessing. But they lack access to training and tailored climate information needed to address these growing issues,” said Joy Shumake-Guillemot, who leads the WMO-WHO Climate and Health Joint Office.
“On the other side, we have climate experts sitting on troves of research and resources that could be applied to support public health goals, but just aren’t reaching the right people,” she added.
It is hoped that the platform will help to connect the health and climate communities and accelerate multidisciplinary research. This research will support policymakers and community groups in making effective decisions for people’s health in relation to climate change.
“Collaboration between climate, health and technical specialists is crucial for helping us understand and tackle the health effects of climate change,” said Madeleine Thomson, Head of Climate Impacts and Adaptation for the Wellcome Trust.
“But right now, experts can’t always partner and share information as effectively as we know they’d like to. We hope this portal will help fulfil the potential of different disciplines to work together on research and gain new insights into how climate change is affecting health around the world.”
Through the site, users will be able to connect with global experts, find upcoming events, news and opportunities, and access technical resources and data. WHO plans on improving the platform over the coming months and years with new content and features with the intention of expanding its offerings to meet the needs of users across the climate-environment-health interface.