Annually, Thursday 7 April is the United Nations’ and World Health Organization’s World Health Day. In 2022, the theme for World Health Day is Our planet our health.
In the midst of a pandemic and with daily reminders that the adverse effects of climate change are happening right now, on World Health Day 2022 the WHO aims to focus global attention on urgent actions needed to keep humans and the planet healthy.
WHO estimates that more than 13 million deaths around the world each year are due to avoidable environmental causes. This includes the climate crisis, which is the single biggest health threat facing humanity. The climate crisis is also a health crisis.
Over 90 per cent of the planet’s population breathe unhealthy air resulting from the burning of fossil fuels, contributing to countless respiratory and other illnesses. A heating world is seeing mosquitos spread diseases farther and faster than ever before – in early March 2022, we saw the first ever cases of the mosquito-borne tropical disease Japanese encephalitis in Victoria. Previously it had only been recorded in parts of far northern Australia.
We’ve all watched with horror the flood devastation in Queensland and New South Wales, with Lismore flooding twice in the space of a month. Such devastation causes untold mental health issues as well as bringing with it the threat of injury or death and, in the aftermath, potential infections, gastrointestinal illnesses, leptospirosis and other water-borne or mosquito-borne diseases.
Pollution and plastics are found at the bottom of our deepest oceans, the top of our highest mountains, and have made their way into our food chain: on 24 March 2022 researchers from Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in the Netherlands announced that they had found microplastics in human blood for the first time – showing up in almost 80 per cent of people tested.
What can you do?
Like any big problem, our participation in climate change action needs to be broken down into manageable actions.
As part of World Health Day 2022, the WHO has prepared an Our planet our health toolkit you can download to take action and inspire others. Among the suggestions for healthcare professionals and health facilities are:
- supporting efforts to reduce healthcare waste
- decarbonizing health facilities
- identifying opportunities to save energy
- supporting the purchase of environmentally friendly products that are easily recyclable or reusable
- advocating for health to be at the centre of climate change policies.
ANMF (Vic Branch) also has resources to support you.
- Sustainability tools
- Green Nurses and Midwives Facebook page
- Pharmaceutical waste webinar
- Online CPD: How to start a green team
- Online CPD: Nursing for the environment: intensive
Further tips, resources, inspiring member stories and examples, will be available to members at the upcoming Health and Environmental Sustainability Conference, on Friday 13 May 2022.