Climate change a ‘major human health threat’

Climate change a ‘major human health threat’

Photo courtesy of PCRM

Health experts, looking at the results of their research from different laboratories, are one in saying that climate change, which refers to long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns, may trigger more ailments in the world population of nearly eight billion.

Such ailments include heat-related, vector-borne, and infectious diseases with pandemic potential, according to a study commissioned by PruLife UK, which suggested that climate change leads to injury and deaths due to typhoons and floods as well as soil-borne diseases due to poor hygiene and sanitation.

It also leads to water-borne and food-borne diseases, air and water pollution, and forced displacement due to these disasters, and climate change could have contributed to the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has infected and killed millions in different continents.

Tomorrow, the Philippine College of Physicians Climate Change Committee Chair, Dr. Jay Tadloc, will talk on this global challenge at a webinar, where he is expected to tackle the issue before climatologists, environmentalists, and other health experts.

The Tacloban-raised cardiologist had said earlier on that the climate crisis “is pressing, urgent and an emergency,” stressing “it is the civilization that is at stake, and no less than humanity is threatened.

It would be interesting what he would add to his previous warning, considering that world leaders, including President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., during his address at the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly last month, said climate change is the greatest threat affecting various nations and that its effects are uneven and reflect historical injustice.

“Those who are least responsible suffer the most. The Philippines, for example, is a net carbon sink, we absorb more carbon dioxide than we emit. And yet, we are the 4th most vulnerable country to the effects of climate change,” said the 65-year-old Mr. Marcos.

“This injustice must be corrected, and those who need to do more must act now. We accept our share of responsibility and will continue to do our part to avert this collective disaster,” he added.

Dr. Renzo Guinto, one of the researchers of the PruLife UK study, had said the Philippines should learn from the lessons of the pandemic as it is a “dress rehearsal” for more pandemics in the future.

“If we are not reaping the lessons of this crisis in order that we ensure that we have a stronger capacity not just to address the future one, but to prevent future pandemics, then it is likely we will be seeing the same effects not only in human health but also on the economy and society,” Guinto added.

Eng Teng Wong, president of PruLife UK, said insurance companies like theirs are “more prepared” to face similar events with the adoption of “pandemic playbooks” and the creation of policies that are more attuned to the evolving landscape.

He added they are continually raising awareness of the importance of insurance protection against climate health risks.

“We have become more resilient and more understanding in terms of how we can reach Filipinos who are underserved and unserved,” Eng said.

As some observers of climate change have repeatedly said, while no one is safe from these risks, the people whose health is being harmed first and worst by the climate crisis are the people who contribute least to its causes and are least able to protect themselves and their families against it: people in low-income and disadvantaged countries and communities.

They point out that the climate crisis threatens to undo the last 50 years of progress in development, global health, and poverty reduction, and to further widen existing health inequalities between and within populations.

“It severely jeopardizes the realization of universal health coverage in various ways – including by compounding the existing burden of disease and by exacerbating existing barriers to accessing health services, often at the times when they are most needed,” they said.

They added: Over 930 million people — around 12 percent of the world’s population — spend at least 10 percent of their household budget to pay for health care.

“With the poorest people largely uninsured, health shocks and stresses already currently push around 100 million people into poverty every year, with the impacts of climate change worsening this trend.”

Formidably ferocious scenario, this. (ai/mtvn)

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