WHO partners UN in curbing deaths and diseases driven by environmental risk factors

SWITZERLAND – WHO, UNDP, UNEP and UNICEF have partnered to create a new compendium of 500 actions aimed at reducing death and diseases driven by environmental risk factors, the first such resource to unite this expertise from across the UN.

Environmental pollution and other environmental risks cause 24 per cent of deaths through, for example, heart disease, stroke, poisonings, traffic accidents, and others. This toll could be substantially reduced – even eliminated – through bold preventive action at national, regional, local and sector-specific levels.

The repository presents actions and recommendations to address a comprehensive range of environmental risk factors to health, such as air pollution, unsafe water, sanitation, and hygiene, climate and ecosystem change, chemicals, radiation and occupational risks, among others.

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

The compendium, which is accessible via interactive webpages on the WHO website and as a PDF for offline reference, also addresses priority settings for action, such as cities and urban settlements, as well as cross-cutting topics like children’s environmental health.

Young children are especially vulnerable to environmental risks, which can affect their survival and lifelong health and well-being,” said Aboubacar Kampo, Director of Health Programmes at UNICEF.

Two thirds of deaths attributed to environmental risk factors are from non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as heart disease, stroke and cancer, making the actions in the compendium a crucial part of addressing the NCD epidemic.

The compendium will also play an important role in achieving health equity, as low- and middle-income countries bear the greatest environmental burden in all types of diseases and injuries.

“Channelling investments into the actions that address the triple planetary crises of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution, which have profound implications for health, is key. We must transform the way we value nature if we are to safeguard health and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals — a major shift that requires multi-sector, multi-agency efforts.

“This compendium, by making available key tools and methodologies developed by a broad range of development partners is an important step in this direction and in promoting positive environment and health outcomes,” said Monika MacDevette, Chief, Chemicals and Health Branch, UNEP.

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