Health-Protection Under Climate Change
Climate change is the single biggest health threat facing humanity, and Government of India is responding to the health harms caused by this unfolding crisis
Climate change is already impacting health in a myriad of ways, including by leading to death and illness from increasingly frequent extreme weather events, such as heatwaves, storms and floods, the disruption of food systems, increases in zoonoses and food-, water- and vector-borne diseases, and mental health issues.
Furthermore, climate change is undermining many of the social determinants for good health, such as livelihoods, equality and access to health care and social support structures. Climate change affects the food we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the places that provide us with shelter.
These climate-sensitive health risks are disproportionately felt by the most vulnerable and disadvantaged, including women, children, ethnic minorities, poor communities, migrants or displaced persons, older populations, and those with underlying health conditions.
Climate change affects people’s health in two main ways. It changes the seriousness or frequency of health problems that people already face. And it creates new or unanticipated health problems in people or places where they have not been before.
The health effects of climate change include respiratory and heart diseases, water- and food-related illnesses, and injuries and deaths. Climate change has also been linked to increases in violent crime and overall poor mental health.
Climate change increases the risk of illness through increasing temperature, more frequent heavy rains and runoff, and the effects of storms. Health impacts may include gastrointestinal illness like diarrhea, effects on the body’s nervous and respiratory systems, or liver and kidney damage.
As per National Disaster Management Authority’s National Disaster Management Plan 2019 (NDMP, 2019), various nodal and supportive Ministries/departments have been mandated to address various facets of managing such hazards including preparedness, response and mitigation of health risks associated with such hazards.
Accordingly, Union Health Ministry, taking note of health risk associated with such hazards and the supportive role mandated under NDMP, 2019, has undertaken a number of activities under the National Program on Climate Change and Human Health (NPCCHH), with objectives to create awareness, capacity building, health sector preparedness and response and collaborative partnerships.
– Key activities undertaken under the initiative to mitigate health risks associated with such hazards likely to be accentuated by climate change include:
– A National Action Plan on Climate Change and Human Health has been developed, which outlines the key priority and actionable areas at various levels (national and state) in the health sector with identification of other key stakeholders for implementing the activities.
– Early warning Alerts of environmental concerns are initiated to integrate with the health sector- Heatwave (March-July), Cold Wave (Dec-Jan) forecasts and Flood alerts from IMD to States; Air Quality forecasts from Indian Meteorological Department to States and Indian Cities. Air quality data are also shared from CPCB to states for the programme purposes.
– Issuance of seasonal health advisories to States on climate sensitive health issues related to air pollution, heat, cold waves, floods etc.;
– Annual conduct of nationwide public awareness campaigns on World Health Day (April), World Environment Day (June), International Day of Clean Air for blue skies (September), International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction (October).
– Conduct of National level workshops, trainings of state level master trainers, district level trainings on Air pollution related illnesses and Surveillance; Extreme weather events; Health Vulnerability Needs Assessment; Green & Climate Resilient Infrastructure and WASH, Climate Change and Vector Borne Disease, Nutrition and Allergic Health issues
– Environmental health surveillance is conducted on air pollution and heat related illnesses at central and state levels
– Under National Health Mission funds are provided to States/UTs regarding Green/Low carbon emission measures.
·- Further, incorporation of principles of Green & Climate Resilient Hospitals has been made under Indian Public Health Standards (IPHS), 2022.
The Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare has issued a comprehensive & Public Health Guidelines for Flood Events & which provides details on common public health effects due to floods, rapid need assessment, disease surveillance during and after flood with particular focus on water and food borne diseases; vector- borne diseases, and water, sanitation issues etc.
28 (twenty eight) states have made their state level Action Plan on Climate Change and Human Health with respect to specific actions to be initiated in their states.