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How to reduce diseases from environmental factors, save lives, by UN

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Go Nakamura/Getty Images/AFP Go Nakamura / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

• Release compendium of 500 actions to prevent 25% of deaths worldwide
The World Health Organisation (WHO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have partnered to create a new compendium of 500 actions aimed at reducing death and diseases driven by environmental risk factors.

According to a statement published, yesterday, by the WHO, this is the first such resource to unite expertise from across the UN system.

It said environmental pollution and other environmental risks cause 24 per cent of deaths through, for example, heart disease, stroke, poisonings, traffic accidents, and others. It noted that this toll could be substantially reduced – even eliminated – through bold preventive action at national, regional, local and sector-specific levels.

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The compendium provides easy access to steps for practitioners to scale up efforts to create healthy environments that prevent disease. It is designed for policymakers, staff in government ministries, local governments, in-country UN personnel and other decision makers.

The repository presents actions and recommendations to address a comprehensive range of environmental risk factors to health, such as air pollution, unsafe water, climate and ecosystem change, chemicals, radiation and occupational risks.

Air pollution alone leads to seven million deaths each year, while climate change is expected to contribute increasingly to a broad range of health impacts, both directly and indirectly through effects on biodiversity.

Director, Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health, at WHO, Dr. Maria Neira, said: “Events like record-breaking high temperatures in North America, massive flooding in Europe and China, and devastating wildfire seasons provide increasingly frequent, grim reminders that countries need to step up action to eliminate the health impacts of environmental risk factors.”

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He noted that implementing the actions in the compendium should be part of a healthy and green recovery from the COVID pandemic and beyond, and is essential to attaining the Sustainable Development Goals.

The compendium, which is accessible via interactive webpages on the WHO website and as a PDF file for offline reference, also addresses priority settings for action, such as cities and urban settlements, as well as cross-cutting topics like children’s environmental health.

Director of Health Programmes at United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), Aboubacar Kampo, said: “Young children are especially vulnerable to environmental risks, which can affect their survival and lifelong health and well-being.

“Healthy environments are a prerequisite for healthy children. Our assessment indicates that it can prevent a range of life-threatening diseases and quite significantly, up to a quarter of deaths among children under five years of age.”

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