A new operational framework for building climate-resilient, low-carbon and sustainable health systems across the world has been launched by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Published to coincide with the upcoming United Nations Framework Convention on Climate (COP-28), the framework includes a guide for healthcare professionals in addressing climate-related health risks to help safeguard the health of local and global communities.
It is ‘an opportunity for the health sector to lead by example by reducing its own greenhouse gas emissions while continuing to enhance quality of care’, the WHO said.
Greenhouse gas emissions from the health sector are now responsible for almost 5% of the global total. And if the sector were a country, it would be the fifth-largest emitter on the planet.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, commented: ‘Around the world, health systems are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, but they also contribute to it.
‘We therefore have a dual responsibility to build health systems that can withstand climate-related shocks, while at the same time reducing their carbon footprint. This framework gives countries a roadmap for doing just that.’
Sustainable health actions
Consisting of 10 key components, the framework outlines the various actions health organisations, authorities and programmes can take to better anticipate, prevent, prepare for and manage climate-related health risks and therefore decrease the burden of associated climate-sensitive health outcomes.
Of particular note is the second component, which details the need for countries to have a ‘climate-smart health workforce’ centred on three objectives: health workforce capacity; organisational capacity development; and information, awareness and communication.
Sample measurable outputs and indicators are listed for each objective, including up-to-date training for existing staff, the integration of climate-related curricula for new trainees, contingency plans for acute shocks such as extreme weather events, the sharing of best practice on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and establishing solid communication between internal and external stakeholders.
With continuing themes of collaboration, additional components outlined in the framework relate to climate-transformative leadership and governance; research to provide an evidence-base for the development of policy and innovations; and a focus on infrastructure, technologies and supply chain, among others.
The WHO concludes that the ‘application of this framework would result in an important contribution to universal health coverage, global health security and specific targets within the UN Sustainable Development Goals’.