Compendium of 500 actions by WHO and UN partners aims to reduce diseases caused by environmental factors and save lives

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Almost 25% of deaths worldwide could be avoided if the actions of the collection were fully implemented


WHO, UNDP, UNEP and UNICEF have teamed up to create a new compendium of 500 actions to reduce death and disease from environmental risk factors, the first such resource to unite this expertise from the entire United Nations system.

Environmental pollution and other environmental hazards account for 24% of deaths from, for example, heart disease, stroke, poisoning, traffic accidents and others. This toll could be considerably reduced, if not eliminated, through bold preventive action at national, regional, local and sectoral levels.

The Compendium of WHO and other United Nations guidelines on health and the environment provides easy access to practical actions for practitioners to step up their efforts to create healthy environments that prevent disease. It is designed for policy makers, government ministry staff, local government, United Nations in-country staff and other decision makers.

The framework presents actions and recommendations to address a full range of environmental risk factors for health, such as air pollution, unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene, climate and ecosystem changes, chemicals, radiation and occupational hazards, among others.

Air pollution alone causes 7 million deaths each year, while climate change is expected to increasingly contribute to a wide range of health impacts, both directly and indirectly through effects on biodiversity.

“Events such as record high temperatures in North America, massive flooding in Europe and China, and devastating forest fire seasons are increasingly grim reminders that countries must step up actions to eliminate the health impacts of environmental risk factors, ”said Dr Maria Neira, Director, Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health, WHO. “The implementation of the compendium actions should be part of a healthy and green recovery from the COVID pandemic and beyond, and is essential for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. The United Nations is combining its expertise in health and the environment to support countries in this endeavor. ”

The compendium, accessible via interactive web pages on the WHO website and in PDF format for offline reference, also addresses priority action parameters, such as cities and urban settlements, as well as cross-cutting topics such as as children’s environmental health.

“Young children are particularly vulnerable to environmental risks, which can affect their survival, health and well-being throughout their lives,” said Aboubacar Kampo, director of health programs at UNICEF. “Healthy environments are a prerequisite for the health of children. Our assessment indicates that it can prevent a range of life-threatening illnesses and quite significantly, up to a quarter of deaths in children under five. Additionally, healthy environments function as preventative health care and help reduce unnecessary medical costs for families, enabling them to invest in socio-economic progress. “

Two-thirds of deaths attributed to environmental risk factors are due to noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), such as heart disease, stroke and cancer, making the actions described in the compendium a crucial part of the fight against the NCD epidemic.

Collection can also play an important role in achieving health equity, as low- and middle-income countries bear the greatest environmental burden of all types of disease and injury.

“The Compendium can be used to initiate a national dialogue on development priorities in line with the 2030 Agenda and to direct resources accordingly for resilient, healthy, inclusive and sustainable development,” said Dr Mandeep Dhaliwal, Director of HIV, health and development. Group at UNDP. “By addressing the factors that cause a heavy burden of disease in low- and middle-income countries, the Compendium provides policymakers, the private sector and other stakeholders with valuable tools to create the transformative change needed. to ensure a healthy future for people and the planet. . “

“It is essential to channel investments into actions that respond to the triple global crises of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution, which have profound implications for health. We must transform the way we value nature if we are to protect health and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals – a major change that requires multisectoral and multi-agency efforts. This compendium, by making available key tools and methodologies developed by a wide range of development partners, is an important step in this direction and in promoting positive environmental and health outcomes, ”said Monika MacDevette, Chief of the Chemicals and Health Branch, UNEP.

The compendium is a “living” repository, subject to updates and new guidelines as they become available from partner organizations. Each action is briefly described and refers to the source for more details.

It calls for an intensification of actions in countries by ministries of health and others at national, regional and local levels, with each of the interventions described classified according to the sectors mainly involved, the level of implementation and the necessary instruments. , such as regulation, taxes and subsidies, infrastructure, education, communication and others.


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