Programme details

Plenary 4
Contributions of health care to mitigating and adapting to climate change Friday, April 14, 2017 09:00-10:30

Plen 4

Contributions of health care to mitigating and adapting to climate change

Venue: Audimax

Building climate resilient health systems

Elena VILLALOBOS PRATS, Climate change and health team, Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health, World Health Organization Headquarters, Geneva, WHO/PHE

Elena Villalobos Prats is responsible for capacity development and country support in the climate change and health team at the World Health Organization Headquarters in Geneva. Elena is a lawyer by training and holds an MSc in Public Health at the LSHTM, a MSc in International development and humanitarian aid, and a MA in Gender and Equity. She has extensive experience in managing NGO development projects in Asia and South America. In her current position at WHO, Elena is responsible for implementing the components of the WHO workplan on climate change and health related to the provision of policy and technical support for the implementation of the public health response to climate change.  These include supporting a more systematic approach to increasing the resilience of public health systems to climate change, capacity building, generating technical guidance, providing training, and project management and technical support to health adaptation projects supported by different donors.

Abstract summary:

WHO has been working on climate change and health for over 20 years now. Building the evidence on the health impacts of climate change was prioritized during early stages of work. In 2008 a resolution was passed and 2009 the first workplan on climate change and health was approved. Since then, the WHO work has been considerably scaled-up. The implementation of the first generation of projects on climate change facilitated the development of a comprehensive approach to build the resilience of health systems to the threats posed by climate variability and change. The proposed approach (i.e. operational framework for building climate resilient health systems) builds on the six building blocks of health systems and propose ten concrete recommendations that, when implemented, will contribute to ensure that either health systems or health programmes, become more resilient to climate change.

WHO considers that health systems are resilient when these are “capable to anticipate, respond to, cope with, recover from and adapt to climate related shocks and stresses”. At the same time, resilience means that uninterrupted environmental inputs to sustain health operations are ensured at all times (e.g. energy, water and sanitation) while environmental impacts are assessed and minimized.

Activities conducted in the health sector have associated environmental considerations, which if left unaddressed, can inadvertently affect health and well-being. For example, policies and practices in health care waste management can influence health worker and community exposure to infection. The incineration of health care wastes can also give rise to other environmental risks to health, such as air pollution and environmental releases of dioxins, persistent organic pollutants, and mercury.

Measures aimed at "greening health care" therefore constitute an important demonstration of the health sector’s commitment to ensuring that the delivery of health care does not inadvertently cause harm. They also provide an important demonstration of the health sector’s commitment to sustainable development. Moreover, opportunities for health and health systems strengthening may arise where “greening” measures facilitate an alignment of interests across SDG goals, for example where efforts to promote enhanced access to access to water and sanitation (SDG6) or sustainable energy (SDG7) include health care facilities as a priority area of focus.

Climate change and healthcare systems: A reciprocal relationship with risks and opportunities

Dipl.-Ing. Dr. Willi HAAS, Alpen-Adria University, Institute for Social Ecology Vienna, AUT
Willi HAAS, DI, Dr.phil.

Willi Haas, DI, Dr. phil.; after his studies of mechanical engineering he became fascinated by social ecology that is the study of changing society-nature interactions at different interconnected scales, leading to his doctoral degree in social ecology. Climate change mitigation/adaptation research is one of his specialisations in investigating the unsustainable reproduction of societies. Human health plays in this context a dual role since its energy and material intensive reproduction harms nature in turn threatening human health. Professionally, he was director of the Institute of Applied Ecology (Vienna), acting director of the Environmental Monitoring Group (Cape Town) and researcher at the International Institute of Applied System Analysis (IIASA). Since 1998 he is senior researcher/lecturer at the Institute of Social Ecology (Vienna).

Abstract summary:

The global omnipresence, teleconnectedness, and economic intensity of contemporary human activity are historically unprecedented, as are a multitude of consequent environmental and social changes. Climate change, one of the changes, fundamentally threatens human health, and the functioning of both health care and public health activities at all levels of scale. Causal pathways can be direct, indirect or very diffuse, in all cases complicated by their interrelations with other changes like aging, urbanization, economic crises, global and national power relations.

Climate change impacts are more severe in the global South but even Austria, land locked and mountainous, risks increased death tolls due to heat waves in summer. Estimates for Austria forecast an excess mortality of roughly 600-3,000 deaths for the 2050s. Amongst indirect health effects, effective programs to reduce Salmonellosis cases probably would be curbed due to climate change. Further, climate change-triggered spread of Ragweed, a potent source of allergens, will consequently enhance allergy. And how climate change impacts elsewhere might reinforce migration and related new disease patterns challenging our health system remains almost unfathomable.

Present climate change is human induced, mainly by the global North, which has overconsumed excessively its share of the carbon budget available for a safe future. Among the responsible sectors, growing health care is one driver. US studies for example show that direct and indirect emissions of health care activities contributed 8% of total US GHG emissions in 2007 and 10% in 2013.

Ironically, health care systems contribute to climate change, in turn threatening the very same human health they are reproducing. This calls for a fundamental re-thinking of health care. Consequent alignment of hospitals to health promotion strategies would be a major step forward to gain co-benefits for health and climate. My talk will focus on this reciprocal relationship.

HPH & Environment: Achievements and contributions of the HPH Task Force

Chin-Lon LIN, Chief Executive Director, Tzu Chi Medical Foundation and Chief, Task Force on Health Promoting Hospital & Environment, TWN
Dr. Chin-Lon LIN

Dr. Chin-Lon Lin, CEO of Tzu Chi Medical Foundation, chair of task force on HPH and Environment, also served as the Board Member of Health Care Without Harm Asia Advisory Board. He’s dedicated to convene hospital systems and medical professionals to transform from environmental hazard to environmental steward. Dr. Lin is also passionate on plant-based diet researches which significantly reduce cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. Author of numerous scientific papers and four books, his keen sense of market power in the health​ ​care industry as a driver of environmental responsibility will surely bring much inspiration.

Abstract summary:

Hurricanes, floods, heat waves, droughts around the world affecting thousands of people have lost their lives; suffering food shortages and outbreak diseases are feared. This accord forestalling is widely acknowledged as the greatest public health threat this century. It has increasingly clear that climate change is not just about polar bears or endangered species but also a growing burden of disease and reversing climate change would protect and promote population health and well-being.

Task Force on HPH and Environment has established as a means to facilitate, to mobilize, and to build multi-sector partnership formation in order to advocate climate solutions and healthcare leadership to combat climate change, also a greater focus on disaster prevention and preparedness, as opposed to response and recovery. 

This presentation examines environmental friendly health care trends and the development of resilience hospital focusing on the importance of creating healthy settings as an effective and sustainable strategy. It starts with a brief overview of the development and aims of the task force; then explains the needs for the urgent call; illustrate the existing efforts all around the world with shinning case examples. The final part discusses issues and gaps concerning HPH global strategies and provides recommendations for its future development. 



Dipl.-Ing. Marianne STEINER, MA
Expert, Chief Executive Office of the City of Vienna, AUT
Dipl.-Ing. Marianne STEINER, MA

Dipl.-Ing Marianne Steiner, MA is an expert in the Chief Executive Office of the City of Vienna. After her studies of Regional Planning and Spatial Development at the University of Technology Vienna and Public Management at the UAS Campus Vienna, she worked for Office Dr. Paula in Vienna in the field of Spatial Development and Development of Space. Afterwards she worked for the Vienna City Administration, Urban District Planning and Land Use for five years. Since 2000, she is in the Executive Office for the Coordination of Climate Protection Measures. Besides her work, she has considerable experience in publishing in professional journals as well as in holding lectures at the University of Technology Vienna and talking at international congresses. 

President of Planetree, Vice-President of the HPH Governance Board, USA

Susan Frampton is the President of Planetree, a non-profit advocacy and membership organization that works with a growing international network of healthcare provider organizations implementing patient-/person-centered models of care. Dr. Frampton, a medical anthropologist, has authored numerous publications, including the third edition of Putting Patients First (Jossey-Bass 2013), a chapter in Providing Compassionate Health Care (Routledge 2014), and the National Academy of Medicine Discussion Paper Evidence-Base for Patient-Engaged Care (pending 2017). Dr. Frampton currently co-chairs the Advanced Illness Care Action Team convened by National Quality Form, serves on the Governing Board for the WHO-CC International Network of Health Promoting Hospitals, has participated on The Joint Commission’s Expert Advisory Panel on culturally competent patient-centered care standards, and currently chairs the NAM’s Scientific Advisory Panel on the Evidence Base for Patient-Centered Care. In addition to speaking internationally on culture change and patient experience, she was honored in 2009, when she was named one of “20 People who Make Healthcare Better” by Health Leaders Magazine.