Health should be central to the conversation around climate change

Climate Change 2019_

Jökulsárlón, Iceland (Unsplash, 2019)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Mr. Aparajeya Shanker, a medical student studying in Medical University – Pleven, Bulgaria. He is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


Conversations around climate change often revolve around technology and economics. Policy frameworks regarding climate change often use economics as both a shield as well as an incentive, whether it is increasing regulations for manufacturing or the implementation of better technology. The most crucial aspect of climate change, however, is the impact of climate change on health, and often policies framed by governments and regulatory bodies are still focussed on prevention and reduction of the causes of climate change. Too little is being done to combat the effects of climate change, particularly on individual and population health.

To illustrate this, it would be prudent to take the example of Air Pollution. Multiple indices exist to measure the quality of air, like the Air Quality Health Index, The Air Pollution Index and the Pollutant Standards Index to name a few. There are regulatory policies aimed towards contributors to air pollution and there is indeed no shortage of punitive measures on industries that violate policy. However, there is a distinct shortage on Policies regarding the response towards declining Air Quality around the world. It is a fact that cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses are on the rise and are directly affected by a reduced Air Quality Index.

Climate Change affects individual health. The effects on individual health range from temperature related illnesses to exposure to extreme events and changing infection patterns. There is sufficient  data to state confidently that we are heading towards an International Health Emergency caused directly by climate change. Public Health systems around the world need to be included in policy frameworks to combat climate change and its effects. The interconnections between climate change and health are a vast network of interactions that require urgent action.

Education is often the first step. Health professionals should be trained and educated in the effects of climate change on health. Economic support to this end should be a matter of priority. Health professionals should be trained in recognizing patterns of climate change and disease and organizations dedicated to forming public health responses both nationally and globally should be formed.

Policymakers in the government and regulatory authorities must make a  concerted Public Health response with the input and support of the medical community. The invaluable insights of an interdisciplinary approach should allow for a response that is measured, effective and evidence based. The participation of the general public and patients should also be encouraged in conversations involving climate change and health.

In conclusion, it is important to reiterate the importance of health in the context of climate change. Health is a crucial part of the conversation surrounding climate change and health should be central to all decision-making processes regarding climate change as the effects of climate change require the urgent and coordinated efforts of the global medical community.

About the author

Aparajeya Shanker is a medical student studying in Medical University – Pleven, Bulgaria. He is interested in the fields of Public Health and Surgery and has written a paper on “Public Health for an Aging Population”. He hopes to continue his research on Public Health policies for aging populations and also hopes to further the advancement of the public understanding of medicine and science.

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