Climate change and lifespan are inextricably linked. linked. There is a significant health threat associated with changing weather patterns and some regions may be hit harder than others. The danger is all-encompassing.
Increasingly, healthcare leaders are expressing concern about the impact climate change is already having on healthcare projections. Mustafa Kamel, Director of Medical Affairs at Janssen South Africa, is outspoken about his concerns. He says now is the time to act!
The world has already warmed more than 1°C. We can still limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C and avoid the worst climate effects. But we need more ambition now.
“With the end of the Covid-19 pandemic, the world’s gaze has shifted to climate change and the impact it would have in the near, medium and long term. It is a harsh reality and variations in severity are expected to be unevenly distributed around the world. Some places can get colder, but are compensated by, for example, warmer winters in other regions. Included in the package, more frequent and severe weather conditions. And we have already seen these phenomena emerge.”
Climate change will affect the lifespan of the most vulnerable
Just as temperature and weather changes will be unevenly distributed, so too will the impact of climate change be disproportionately distributed.
Unfortunately, the segments of the population most at risk are the most vulnerable. These include lower-income communities, children and pregnant women, seniors, individuals with disabilities and pre-existing conditions. These risks are complex.
As Kamel points out, “Think about what all this really means. Imagine your daily life. Clean drinking water, the air we breathe, the food we eat, the flights we take and the fossil fuels we use. We have created this monster and now we have to deal with it.”
Climate change and food security are linked to nutrition and health
There is no doubt that climate change will also have a significant impact on health and healthcare. In many cases, it is along the value chain, such as food security, that comes with nutrition, and in turn the associated diseases and conditions that can arise. These may include an increased risk of cancer, dental problems, weight gain and appropriate growth in children, mental health problems and diabetes.
Climate change will also put additional pressure on healthcare systems.
“Ground Floor Ozone, or smog, poses various respiratory risks and the consequences can be lung disease, asthma or aggravated as a pre-existing condition, while waterborne threats such as cholera can become more widespread. Diseases previously thought to be under some degree of control, such as malaria, could be spreading again in previously eradicated areas. Lyme disease and dengue fever are also among ecologically based diseases that can have an unwanted recurrence. The list of mild to severe impacts on world well-being is considerable.” – Mustafa Kamel, Director of Medical Affairs for Janssen South Africa
Add to this the direct effects of climate change that we have already seen emerging. Cases of heat waves involving heat stroke, cardiovascular failure, and other related deaths. Floods, as we have seen recently in many parts of the world, cause property damage, injury and death to people.
Healthcare is under threat
While attempts to slow down climate change remains on the global agenda, action is imperative. And it’s not just about reducing CO2 emissions. It also concerns the damage to the environment from activities such as deforestation, overgrazing, waste management and the like. In fact, almost every aspect of our lives should responsibly reshape in a collective effort to counter a tsunami initiated by humanity. Now it’s up to us to control its severity.
“We would save ourselves,” Kamel said, “and while the full impact of climate change may be just a science gamble at this point, governments around the world have taken note and are planning to address the potentially unavoidable. care is no different.”
What are we doing?
To effectively manage the impact of pressures on health care, Kamel said, it is imperative that more emphasis be placed on primary health care. This is especially true in emerging markets and countries where low-income populations and unemployment or poverty are rife. South Africa is at risk.
Significant investment and roundtable discussions between role players are now more important than ever. It requires national policy changes and collaboration between authorities, the pharmaceutical industry, healthcare providers, the private hospital sector and welfare organisations.
Let’s do something about it now
The opportunity costs are potentially huge. The World Health Organization has already estimated that by 2030 the costs of direct health damage from climate change could be between two and four billion dollars, excluding the price tags of, for example, clean water and sanitation. The institution also predicted an additional 250,000 deaths each year between now and 2050, directly linked to the impact of climate change.
Kamel said primary health care is where illness or disease can be treated most effectively, and that both progressive infections and their impact can be managed at the onset of a disease. He notices,
“Climate change is the greatest threat to humanity and life as we know it. Let’s do something about it now.”
Longevity shares global concerns about the climate crisis. You can read more here: We Can’t Be Pro-Aging Without a Healthy Planet
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