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Climate change adaptation

How will we manage?

Rising global temperatures increase the moisture the atmosphere can hold, resulting in more storms and heavy rains, but paradoxically also more intense dry spells as more water evaporates from the land and global weather patterns change.

Drought and flood risks, and associated societal damages, are projected to further increase with every degree of global warming.

The number and duration of droughts also increased by 29 per cent over the previous two decades. Most drought-related deaths occurred in Africa.

Only 0.5 per cent of water on Earth is useable and available freshwater – and climate change is dangerously affecting that supply. Over the past twenty years, terrestrial water storage – including soil moisture, snow and ice – has dropped at a rate of 1 cm per year, with major ramifications for water security.

We have seen that extreme heat is incredibly dangerous and we need to prepare for this new harsher reality!

Healthcare professionals need to start being advocates for their communities health and well-being. We need to consider embedding ourselves into decision-making and policy development in order that we protect our health, our patient’s health and our planets health.

Below are a few examples of interventions and strategies that have been developed over the last few years. If you know of anymore please add them to the comments at the end of this section.

National heat-health warning systems and action plans

  • Asia, Europe and North America have experienced several extreme summer heatwaves and continuous new records in terms of extreme temperatures since 2003. Here are some examples of heat health action plans in India and Europe.

Chief Heat Officer

  • Currently, there are Chief Heat Officers in Miami, Los Angeles, Santiago, Chile, Santiago, Sierra Leone, Athens, Greece, and Melbourne, Australia.
  • In 2022, Eleni (Lenio) Myrivili, the Chief Heat Officer of Athens was announced as the Global Chief Heat Officer to UN Habitat. She will work together in partnership with 60 countries around the world to bring solutions to extreme heat to cities.

International Health Regulations

The International Health Regulations 2005 (IHR) provide an overarching legal framework that defines countries’ rights and obligations in handling  public health events and emergencies that have the potential to cross borders i.e. the preparedness and response to health emergencies. The IHR is legally-binding in 196 countries, including the 194 WHO Member States. The IHR  grew out of the response to  deadly epidemics that once overran Europe. Recently, we have seen with Covid-19 just how important it is to have those capacities in place!

  • In the Lancet Countdown Report 2022 they found that of the 196 countries that reported this implementation only 63% had high to very high levels of implementation of health emergency management strategy.
  • The Countdown committee then compared implementation to the human development index. This index that takes into account different aspects of human development, such as GDP, education and health outcomes.
  • Eighty-eight percent if countries with a very high human development index have implemented high to very high levels of health emergency management capacities.
  • Whereas, countries with low to medium levels high human development index they are lagging behind. Only 33-36% of them had implemented these emergency management capacities.
  • Therefore, the most vulnerable countries, those most impacted by climate change are falling behind in strengthening their health systems to be able to cope with these added pressures.

As a result of this the gap in health equality will be amplified due to climate change, and therefore, it is crucially important we increase resilience of our health systems globally.

References

  • World Bank
  • Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
  • World Meteorological Organization (WMO)
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