Environmental Protection

WHO Collaborates on Health/Climate Atlas

Published jointly Oct. 29 by the World Health Organization and the World Meteorological Organization, it contains maps, tables, and graphs showing links between health and climate around the world.

The Atlas of health and climate was published jointly Oct. 29 by the World Health Organization and the World Meteorological Organization to illustrate some of the world's pressing current and emerging challenges and the connection between these two key areas. Droughts, floods, and cyclones affect the health of millions of people each year, while extreme events such as floods can trigger epidemics, such as diarrhea, malaria, dengue, and meningitis, according to WHO.

"Prevention and preparedness are the heart of public health. Risk management is our daily bread and butter. Information on climate variability and climate change is a powerful scientific tool that assists us in these tasks," said Dr Margaret Chan, WHO's director-general. "Climate has a profound impact on the lives, and survival, of people. Climate services can have a profound impact on improving these lives, also through better health outcomes."

"Stronger cooperation between the meteorological and health communities is essential to ensure that up-to-date, accurate, and relevant information on weather and climate is integrated into public health management at international, national, and local levels. This atlas is an innovative and practical example of how we can work together to serve society," said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud.

The atlas shows how:

  • In some locations, infectious disease incidence can vary by factors of more than 100 between seasons and significantly between years, depending on weather and climate conditions.
  • Case studies illustrate how collaboration among meteorological, emergency, and health services is already saving lives, such as by limiting deaths from cyclones of similar intensity in Bangladesh (reduced from around 500,000 in 1970 to 140,000 in 1991 and to 3,000 in 2007, "largely thanks to improved early warning systems and preparedness," according to WHO).
  • Heat extremes that would currently be expected to occur only once in 20 years may occur on average every 2-5 years by the middle of this century while the number of older people living in cities (one of the most vulnerable groups to heat stress) will almost quadruple, from 380 million in 2010 to 1.4 billion in 2050.
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