This week a major all-island conference will highlight the impacts of climate change on population health in Ireland and Northern Ireland and the need to put health at the heart of our response.
On Wednesday, 30 November around 1,000 health professionals, researchers and policymakers are expected to attend the online Joint Public Health Conference to consider the climate crisis and the potential health benefits of taking climate action.
The Healthy Planet, Healthy People conference is one of the first major events to highlight the impacts of climate change on population health on the island of Ireland.
The one-day conference will be opened by Sir Patrick Vallance, Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Government.
It will also hear from Dr Maria Neira, Director of Public Health and Environment, World Health Organization who will discuss the health argument for tackling air pollution, which is linked to seven million premature deaths globally every year.
Other keynote speakers include Dr Nick Watts, NHS Chief Sustainability Officer, who will share some insights into how the NHS is working towards becoming the world’s first net zero national health service, while Professor John Barry from Queen’s University Belfast will outline the links between the economy, climate change and our health.
The conference will be chaired by Dr Jenny Mack, a public health consultant with the Institute of Public Health.
The World Health Organization has described the climate crisis as a health crisis given the many impacts on human health, from a rise in extreme weather events and air pollution to impacts on food and water insecurity, increased transmission of infectious diseases and displacement of communities.
Healthcare professionals, Dr Jenny Mack said, are becoming increasingly concerned by the impacts of rising temperatures and polluted air on public health and the need for urgent action to safeguard the health of current and future populations.
“Climate change is contributing to death, disease and inequalities across the world and we, on this island, are not immune. Across the globe, we are witnessing more floods, droughts and heatwaves and we are also seeing the effects closer to home, with record-breaking temperatures and more extreme weather events than ever before,” Dr Mack said.
“While we face what the World Health Organization has described as the single greatest challenge of the 21st century, there are opportunities to secure positive health gains through climate action. Moving away from burning fossil fuels, improving access to active or public transport and creating climate resilient, sustainable health systems are just some of the ways we can improve health outcomes through climate action,” she added.
The online event will also highlight the latest public health research, interventions and innovation in the area of health and climate change, as well as sustainability in healthcare.
The conference is jointly organised by the Institute of Public Health, Public Health Agency, Queen’s University Belfast, Ulster University, University College Cork and HSE Health & Wellbeing.
For more information and to register for the Healthy Planet, Healthy People conference visit https://healthyplanetconference.org.