Fifty-ninth session of the WHO Regional Committee for the Western Pacific, 22-26 September, 2008, Manila, Philippines
MANILA, September 2008—The World Health Organization's Regional Committee for the Western Pacific, WHO's governing body in the Western Pacific, has endorsed a draft plan to protect health from the effects of climate change.
The strategy, developed by the WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific in collaboration with the Regional Office for South-East Asia, calls for concerted action to address emerging health problems associated with global warming.
Dr Shigeru Omi, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, in his address to the Regional Committee, expressed concern about the potential adverse effects that climate change would have on human health, safety and survival.
While acknowledging that more research needs to be done on the subject, Dr Omi said: "We should not wait for all evidence to be available. We should act now to minimize potential health consequences of climate change with the existing knowledge and technologies available to us."
The Regional Framework for Action to Protect Human Health from the Effects of Climate Change in the Asia Pacific Region calls for:
- increased awareness of the health consequences of climate change, including more studies on the links between climate change and health outcomes;
- strengthened health systems capacity to provide protection from climate-related risks, such as strengthened disease surveillance and early warning systems, disaster management, and community-level adaptation programmes; and
- assurance that health concerns are addressed in decisions to reduce risks from climate change in other key sectors, such as walking whenever possible instead of using a vehicle.
The health risks that populations face from climate change include heat stress, waterborne, foodborne and vectorborne diseases, respiratory diseases due to air pollution, and psychosocial concerns from the displacement of people. Water supplies and food production will also be disrupted.
The Regional Committee is meeting in Manila from 22 to 26 September, under the chairmanship of Francisco Duque III, Secretary for Health of the Philippines, to review WHO's work and to formulate strategies on key health issues affecting the Region.