Climate change as determinant of health: the 21st Century challenge

climate change 2019 glacier

Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina (Unsplash, 2019)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Mr. Gianluca Ceccarelli, medical student at University of Pisa, Italy. 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.


“In our language the words “climate change” do not exist” said Giuseppe Villalaz interviewed for the Italian news magazine Internazionale. Villalaz is an environmental activist belonging to indigenous community of Kuna that has been living for almost a century along the Caribbean coast of Panama. Due to climate change, sea level is rising rapidly and threatens the life of the inhabitants of this region, who are forced to move to another land: they are progressively losing their crops, their houses and their assets and they are constrained to change their lives drastically.

In global health language, all the elements mentioned above – house, access to food and water, job and so on – are known as social determinants of health: they are defined as all the conditions in which people are born, grow, live and age, and the wider set of forces and systems shaping the quality of daily life. It is not difficult to notice that all these determinants are strongly affected by climate change, in this specific case: people of Kuna will need to change their habits, their way to get food and water, their way to build houses due to the huge transformation of their natural habitat and this enormous overturning of their lifestyle will have a big impact on their health.

Food and water supplies are the most affected by environmental disasters, resulting in damaged crops, low yields and drought: shortages lead to rising food costs which tend to affect lower income groups, thereby impending their access to nutritious food and setting the stage for malnutrition. So climate change has an indirect effect on health, because it affects some of the most important determinants of health as air, food and water and it is responsible of global warming, hurricanes and floods, as well as transmission of infective diseases.

However, climate change has a direct effect on health, too: research has shown that human health is being adversely impacted by it. The mechanisms by which climate change impacts human health are as diverse and complex as the impacts and there are complex relationships between them. Decreased air quality and pollution are known to contribute to respiratory diseases which affect individual’s ability to work, contributing the cycle of vulnerability and there are lots of examples like this that could be done.

The Lancet, one of the most prestigious medical journals in the world, highlights how the influence of environment and climate on our health is unmistakable by now. Despite the increased awareness about climate change, governments have not intervened on the implications in the healthcare caused by global warming with the necessary effectiveness yet: some estimates hold that 800’000 people die every year due to outdoor pollution and 1,5 million people die as a result of indoor pollution.

The objective is to provide a ‘new’ framework from which policy on climate change and human health can be developed and maximize effectiveness; as the social determinants of health consider health as a product individual lifestyle choices and the external factors that shape choices, we need to change our lifestyle now and to raise awareness so that we manage to stop consequences of our past mistakes.

About the author

Gianluca Ceccarelli, medical student at University of Pisa. He has been part of IFMSA
since 2014 and nowadays he is National Officer on Human Rights and Peace for SISM-
Italy. As international trainer he is passionate about learning styles and communication,
but his favourite research field is global health and how social factors impact on people
health. As responsible for human rights activities, he believes in a society without
inequalities and he dreams to embody the real meaning of social role that every doctor
should recognize.

 

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

the European Sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

What Merkel and Macron are to tell Trump in Davos?

Four lessons for a successful switch to value-based healthcare

Free and secure access needed in DR Congo conflict zone to tackle Ebola – WHO

UN agencies welcome green light for Rohingya projects in northern Myanmar; urge ‘more effective access’

Humanitarian visas would reduce refugees’ death toll

‘Informing is not a crime’ UN chief calls for better protection of journalists, press freedom

Measles cases nearly doubled in a year, UN health agency projects

The Mobile World Congress in Shanghai will take place on 27-29 June 2018

What next for Europe? Three (completely) different Davos views

We must stop a devastating ‘battle to the end’ in southwest Syria, declares UN envoy

Christmas spending: Who can afford not to cut?

JADE Spring Meeting Live Coverage: Entrepreneurial skills in the digital markets

UN condemns Syrian ‘war on children’ as up to 30 reportedly killed in clashes

Consumer product quality: MEPs take aim at dual standards

‘Habitual residence’ rules deprive EU workers from social benefits

Low quality healthcare is increasing the burden of illness and health costs globally

Tech must embrace teamwork to transform the world

Draghi strives to control the unruly exploitation of financial markets by banking leviathans

EU budget: Making the EU fit for its role as strong global actor

The costs of corruption: values, economic development under assault, trillions lost, says Guterres

The West and Russia impose a new order on the world

How Europe beat the financial crisis – and the risks it still faces

How bad is the Eurozone economy? The ECB thinks too bad

Eurozone: Retail sales and inflation point to recession

How the powerful science of behaviour change can make us healthier

Charlotte in Ghana

How drones can manage the food supply chain and tell you if what you eat is sustainable

‘Make healthy choices’ urges UN agency, to prevent and manage chronic diabetes

Parliament pushes for cleaner cars on EU roads by 2030

China repels EU allegations of export subsidies

China’s Ambassador to the EU Zhang Ming wishes to Brussels a Happy 2019 Year of the Pig

Fear casts again a cold, ugly shadow over Europe; Turkey sides with Russia

At last a solid base for the European Banking Union

Huawei answers allegations about its selling prices

Without tackling ‘gross inequalities’ major issues will go unsolved, warns UN rights chief Bachelet

Mental health: a medical school’s demand

Canada grants asylum for Saudi teen who fled family: UNHCR

UN must provide redress for minorities placed in toxic Kosovo camps, says rights expert

World Health Organisation and young doctors: is there any place for improvement?

The 28 EU leaders care more about fiscal orthodoxy than effectively fighting youth unemployment

Women’s voices must be heard in the battle to save the ocean

A backbencher Tory MP threatens both EU and UK with a no-deal Brexit

ILO and EIB join forces for more and better quality employment

EU migration deal welcomed by UN agencies

UN chief ‘commends’ leadership of Greece and former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, as name dispute draws to final close

Campaign kicks off with High-level Event on #FairInternships

Is Europe ready to cooperate with the rest of the world? Can Germany change its selfish policies?

Human Rights breaches in Saudi Arabia, Chechnya and Zimbabwe

YO!Fest back in Strasbourg for the 2nd edition of the European Youth Event – 20-21 May 2016

Learn from the margin, not the center: digital innovation with social impact as transformative force bridging digital divide

More solidarity and interaction between generations needed to challenge age stereotypes and ingrained ageism

Overseas investment falling, developing countries largely unscathed: UN trade agency

EU Top Jobs summit ended with no agreement: welcome to Europe’s quicksand!

South Eurozone needs some…inflation and liquidity

Parliament sets up plan to fight the 3,600 criminal rings of EU

The Commission unsuccessfully pretends to want curbing of tax evasion

Yemen: UN envoy asks Security Council for more support ‘to move back’ to the negotiating table

First-ever EU defence industry fund to finance joint development of capabilities

Ukraine: Is there a political force able to undo the division?

Half the world’s refugee children not in school, UN agency finds

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s