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" "THE WHO ESTIMATES THATAROUND 150,000DEATHS NOWOCCUR IN LOW-INCOMECOUNTRIES EACHYEAR FROM FOURCLIMATE-SENSITIVEHEALTHOUTCOMES nless we act decisively, the impact ofclimate change on human health will beprofound and devastating. The WHO iskeen to bolster public confidence inclimate science and get the international negotiationsback on track.While the Copenhagen conference last December wasa setback, it has created an unprecedented platformfor raising awareness of climate change impacts onhuman health. A momentum has been created thatnow needs to be built upon. The emerging economiessuch as Brazil, China, India and South Africa have alldeclared their intent to take action along with SmallIsland States and the developed economies.According to WHO's scientific review of modelingevidence, the earliest and most severe health impactsof climate change will be seen in developing countries,where undernutrition is already widespread and thehealth system infrastructure is weak. Climate-sensitiverisk factors and illnesses are currently among the mostimportant contributors to the global burden of disease;these include undernutrition (estimated to kill 3.5million people per year), diarrhoea (2.2 million) andmalaria (0.9 million).We are already seeing many negative healthconsequences of the changing climate and it isobvious that the "business as usual" approach willhave some profoundly adverse effects on global health. A strong and equitable climate change agreement,on the other hand, would have undeniable healthbenefits. Feasible improvements in environmentalconditions, for example, could reduce the globaldisease burden by more than 25 per cent. The WHObases this assessment on a large and coherent bodyof peer-reviewed theoretical, observational andmodeling evidence. This evidence points to the fact that the warming ofthe planet will be gradual, but the effects of extremeweather conditions - more storms, floods, droughtsand heat waves - will be abrupt and acutely felt. TheWHO estimates that around 150,000 deaths nowoccur in low-income countries each year from fourclimate-sensitive health outcomes: crop failure andmalnutrition, diarrhoeal disease, malaria andflooding. Almost 85 per cent of these deaths are inyoung children.Of major concern is the fact that climate changethreatens to reverse progress made towards theMillennium Development Goals (MDGs). Povertyreduction, health and environment targets cannot bemet while climate change exacerbates malnutrition,disease and injury. On a positive note, robust measures to reducegreenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in the transport,electricity generation, household energy, food andagriculture sectors, in both low- and high-incomesettings can improve health, often in substantial ways. Reducing GHG from energy consumption andtransport systems, for example, would help addresssome of the largest and fastest growing global healthchallenges and the greatest drains on health sectorresources such as acute respiratory infections,cardiovascular disease, obesity, cancer, and diabetes.Such action would also help address big diseaseburden issues including outdoor air pollution(800,000 annual global deaths); traffic accidents (1.2million deaths); physical inactivity (1.9 milliondeaths); and indoor air pollution (1.5 million deaths). Right: Director of thedepartment of public health andenvironment, at theWHO, Dr Maria P. NeiraHEALTH BENEFITS OF TACKLING CLIMATE CHANGE104HEALTHDR MARIA NEIRA, DIRECTOR, DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENT, THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANISATION (WHO)U

BIOGRAPHYDr María P. Neira is Director for the Department ofPublic Health and Environment at The World HealthOrganisation (WHO). Dr Neira, a Spanish national,holds a degree in Medicine and Surgery from theUniversity of Oviedo, Spain, and a Masters degree inPublic Health from the Université Pierre et MarieCurie, in Paris, France. Dr Neira joined the WHO in Geneva in 1993 as Co-ordinator of the Global Task Force on Cholera Control. In 1999 she was appointed Director of theDepartment of Control, Prevention and Eradication. Between September 2002 and August 2005 she wasPresident of the Spanish Food Safety Agency and ViceMinister of Health and Consumers Affairs in Spain.Before joining the WHO, from 1991 to 1993 Dr Neiraworked as Public Health Adviser at the Ministry ofHealth in Mozambique. Earlier, in Kigali, Rwanda, shewas a UN Public Health Advisor/Physician onassignment from the United Nations DevelopmentProgramme (UNDP). From 1987 to 1989 Dr Neira worked in Salvador andHonduras as Medical Coordinator for Médecins sansFrontières. She started her professional career in1984 at the Necker Hospital and Hôpital Saint Louisin Paris, where she worked for three years.Among other distinctions, Dr Neira has been awardedthe Médaille de l'Ordre national du Mérite by theGovernment of France.HEALTH105partners to strengthen "climate health literacy" onall levels of decision making and in all sectors,acknowledging that:. the ultimate impact of rising GHGs and all climatechange threats to environment, economy andsecurity will be on human health;. health impact can and must be used as a guide to GHG policy development and allocation ofadaptation resources especially in populationsvulnerable to diseases of poverty; and, . cutting greenhouse gas emissions can represent amutually reinforcing opportunity to reduce climatechange and to improve public health. As the dialogue and debate now moves to Cancun, anenhanced "climate health literacy", which useshuman health and wellbeing as the barometer ofdecision making, can help overcome points of publicdisagreement and skepticism. We need to build a newevidence-based sustainability action agenda to whichall should be able to commit. nFor these reasons, the WHO is keen to boost publicconfidence in climate science and resume the climatechange negotiations. The WHO is and always will becommitted to open, participatory and evidence-basedpolicy making. We routinely welcome and regularlyanalyse new data and findings, especially those whichchallenge current thinking. Having said that, it is critically important to note that throughout this media debate no significantevidence to contradict current climate science has emerged.The WHO believes that now is the timeto reframe the climate change negotiations around theultimate health and health equity implications of allplans, policies and investments. Such a positive, practical, and people-orientedapproach will allow for a clearer understanding of theneed for (and benefits of) urgent action to curb GHGand provide a solid basis for a global consensus.Therefore, as policy makers begin to reconstruct aglobal agreement, the WHO will build upon its WorldHealth Assembly resolution mandate and work with its