The biggest impact of a changing climate is health - WHO

Climate change should be re-framed as a problem of health, not the environment, according to the Director General of the United Nations body in charge of international public health.

The World Health Organisation's Director General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, told a Pacific Health Ministers meeting in Tahiti on Thursday:  

“The effects of climate change on human health are much more immediate, including death and disease caused by extreme weather events, heat stress, waterborne and food-borne diseases, malnutrition and more.

“This is especially true in the Pacific, where extreme weather events and environmental changes are increasingly common, and communities are more vulnerable.”

He requested the Health Ministers to find innovative ways to implement the Pacific Climate Action Plan, continue investing in emergency preparedness, work across their governments to beat non-communicable diseases and invest in health workers. 

“Realising the vision of primary health care will entail changes inside and outside the health sector. 

"Within the health system, we must focus on strengthening and reorienting the health workers to make sure we have the right staff with the right skills in the right places

“Outside the health system, it’s vital that governments adopt a health-in-all policies approach. Health promotion and disease prevention must start with addressing the air we breathe, the food we eat, the roads we drive on and the conditions in which we live.”

Dr. Angela Merianos also of the World Health Organisation told the gathering that there is “repeated evidence that vaccine hesitancy is resulting in outbreaks, evidenced by measles outbreak”. 

The comments come after recent evidence that Samoa is falling behind its global target of vaccinating 90 per cent of children. In 2017 just 71.8 per cent of children were vaccinated according to a report released by the Asian Development Bank in July.

Meanwhile New Zealand’s Associate Minister for Health, Jenny Salesa said the forum is an opportunity to discuss health in the region. 

She said hearing from the “Pacific nations on their work is vital to ensuring the health of our Pacific People in New Zealand, and for strengthening the reputation of New Zealand in the region.

“The Government is currently undertaking the ‘Pacific reset’, to look at how we can better support our Pacific partners, rebuild our standing within the Pacific and ensuring Government decision-making reflects on the potential impact on Pacific nations.”

Tahiti and Papua New Guinea also expressed their commitment to improve cancer treatments in their countries, with Papua New Guinea allocating $US17.6 million (T$46.8 million) to improve cancer treatment and Tahiti to build a Polynesian Cancer Institute.

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