Magazines - 30/November/2021

The tightening grip of climate change

At the critical juncture of human and planetary health.

On the precipice of change

For generations, we have not listened to the message and now the planet is fighting back with what seems to be a final warning. At last, the world is talking about climate change—and there are a multitude of reasons why healthcare professionals are encouraged to join the conversation.

At the November 2021 COP26 summit in Glasgow, the link between climate change and global health was made clearer than ever, with a group of 51 countries committing to developing climate-resilient health systems.

Some links between climate change, global health and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are obvious. Others are less pronounced. While it is well known that air pollution is a main contributor to respiratory illnesses, it may be surprising to learn that air pollution is also a core determinant of poor cardiovascular health. We have dedicated our special report to exploring some of the lesser known effects of the climate crisis on our bodies as well as emerging solutions improving both human and planetary health.

Generating momentum to integrate new ideas and more broadly transform health systems is a challenging task. It starts with creating a consensus on the magnitude and urgency of the problem in front of us. Here, we can learn a lot from the climate change movement. For years, climate action groups have generated unprecedented media attention about the dangers and opportunities facing the world.

In our special report we also cover how these learnings can be applied to change the narrative of NCDs from a long-term agenda to an urgent matter. As 2021 comes to a close, so too does the centennial of the discovery of insulin and a year marked by the launch of several diabetes initiatives. Our global health policy section is dedicated to uncovering the implications of rising diabetes rates in regions and settings where diagnostics and treatment are far from available to everyone.

The disease is a growing problem in many African countries, putting even more strain on pandemic-hit healthcare systems. We focus on the situation in Zambia, where diabetes cases are rising faster than the global average, and explore potential remedies in better-resourced South Africa. The diabetes health gap is also evident in humanitarian settings like conflict zones and regions affected by natural disasters. We need to look at innovative
strategies to broaden healthcare offerings for displaced populations, including better diabetes management.

As the impact of the climate crisis on human health intensifies, we call for urgent action to remove barriers to improved human and planetary health and the courage to amplify bold ideas and solutions for a healthier world. •

 

TEXT – Suzanne Moll

 

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