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NGO Interventions: WHO Fifth Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health

WHO Fifth Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health 10 – 12th March, 2010

HEAL Interventions

  • Intervention on climate change and health Genon Jensen, Health and Environment Alliance

The Health and Environment Alliance told the plenary on climate change at Parma ministerial meeting this morning about the "good news" on climate change. To the Assembly of about 500 people, we welcomed the increased political commitment on climate change and health, and the WHO European Regional Framework for Action on climate change, known as the "Road Map", which had been developed to complement the European Commission’s.

HEAL has been working on health and climate change since 2007. It has been very exciting to see the level of interest rising steadily. By using the health arguments for climate change policy, including on energy efficiency, we have seen growing involvement from medical professionals, medical students, patients groups as well as a whole range of non-governmental organisations. We co-led a large health delegation to Copenhagen and struggled to raise this message in the climate talks in close collaboration with WHO. It was not easy. We started to ask ourselves: "Is it worth it?" But hearing during this session in Parma about what others are doing on the road to Cancun, Mexico where the next talks will take place, and the commitment from WHO Executive Director Margaret Chan, we are re-invigorated, it has given us strong encouragement.

The political commitment has been made clear here. What needs to happen now is for all of us to speak to the scientists on the UN IPCCC - and we need to tell those responsible in our countries about the health arguments in the climate change debate, and ask our health ministers to get involved in making the case for stronger climate targets. Often, people don’t know about the co-benefits to health, and they are interested. They want to know how to make the arguments on the cost benefits of climate change measures and how these can protect future health. We have a clear programme of measures that are known to benefit health. We can confidently claim that what is good for the planet is good for health.

Next week, amendments on the health co-benefits to the European Commission’s White Paper on adaptation will be discussed in the European Parliament’s Environment Committee. This is major progress and very encouraging because only two years ago, when we tried to interest politicians in our message on health issues, we had very little success.

How you can help

Last year, HEAL, Health Care Without Harm, and Climate and Health Council launched a campaign called the Prescription for a Healthy Planet. Through this campaign, we are able to provide the health evidence on the effects of climate change on health as well as the opportunities for public health of climate change policy. It is a global campaign that has already been endorsed by 100 organisations worldwide, including the Standing Committee of European Doctors (CPME), the European Respiratory Society (ERS) and the International Society for Doctors for the Environment (ISDE).

We have four simple demands: . Protect public health . Set strong targets on emission reductions . Promote clean energy . Fund global action.

HEAL called on those attending the plenary to join the campaign as we prepare for Cancun. The campaign website provides all the details and the sign-up page at www.climateandhealthcare.org

-* Intervention on Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals Prof. André Cicolella, Reseau Environnement Sante (RES)

"HEAL organization, as a diverse network of over 60 european NGOs, we give our support to the Parma declaration on Environment and Health and its proposals at state level. We welcome also the context which allows us to provide our expertise and to take part in the preparation of the conference.

Over the past 20 years, this process has lead governments to adopt policies on Environment and Health and raised awareness amongst citizens of the threats to health posed by environmental factors. However, in spite of all these efforts we see that chronic diseases, for which environmental factors are mainly responsible, have still increased. For examples, there is no European country where diabetes or cancer have decreased.

The fact that cancer rates amongst children has increased shows us that it is our current environment which is at stake. Facing the challenge of chronic disease growth should be our main objective. To do this we need paradigmatic shift – we need to understand that the health crisis is an ecological crisis, as much as for example, climate crisis.

An illustration of this would be the emerging risks such as endocrine disruptors chemicals (EDCs). A significant and growing body of scientific data considers EDCs as closely entwined in the growth of chronic diseases.

The next conference must focus on this important issue. This intervention is also available in French

-* Intervention on Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals Maureen Butter, Platform Health and Environment

Many endocrine disruptors persist in the ambient environment for decades in concentrations capable of harming the fetus. Maureen called upon the member states to stimulate medical intervention counteracting the damage of environmental chemicals. The Platform owes thanks to Janna Koppe from Ecobaby for providing evidence that such interventions are possible and should be further developed. The Platform will be happy to share this info with all interested parties.

-* Intervention on child injury Joanne Vincenten, European Child Safety Alliance

Thank you to the speakers from the morning session and their reflections as to the achievement and challenges faced while implementing CEHAPE. In the field of injury prevention we have found similar results.

Of note, an estimated 345 children across Europe will die from an injury during the three day Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health in Parma, Italy and this will happen despite the fact that we know what works to prevent many of these injuries. A number of delegates are wearing grey ribbons during the conference as a remembrance of these children that will die.

Child injury has the largest environmental burden for children compared to outdoor/indoor contaminants, water, sanitation and hygienic issues or lead contaminants. Unintentional injuries are also the leading cause of inequality in childhood death, for both girls and boys.

We are pleased to hear from so many countries here today that have participated in child injury prevention activities including the Child Safety Action Plan initiative, which was financially supported by the European Commission and has linked to the CEHAPE process, in order to collaboratively produce a number of results including:

- 24 countries have been part of child safety report card assessments and are developing child safety action plans where none existed previously.

- Countries that have been involved in 2007 and 2009 report card assessments all demonstrated safety improvements for children,
- evidence good practice has been gathered and published to support country use and

- further collaboration and cooperation in a multi-sectoral approach has been enhanced through the process.

We thank the Member States for their efforts to work with the European Child Safety Alliance to reduce the leading cause of death to children in their Member States. Yet as stated by Professor George Morris in his presentation, we confirm the lessons that have been learnt in the implementation process of our Child Safety Action Plan initiate as part of the CEHAPE process, such as the need for high level leadership and commitment, early and continued support of the right people, and access to good resources in order to implement. The greatest challenged expressed by our country partners was when changed occurred in elected officials, often resulting in processes being set back or restarting discussions and agreements.

Despite the magnitude and burden injury causes, many Member States have not yet adopted and/or fully implemented and enforced those measures that have been proven to reduce childhood injury. Countries continued commitment to adopt, implement and enforce what has proven to work will save more children’s lives and can be done in while working with multiple sectors as child injury prevention crosses many domains while working to attain greater health and safety for all.

Last updated on 20 May 2011

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The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) is a leading European not-for-profit organisation addressing how the environment affects health in the European Union (EU). We demonstrate how policy changes can help protect health and enhance people’s quality of life. Read more »

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