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Climate change and human health

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WHO Climate Change and Health Programme Activities

Leadership and advocacy

WHO strategy on health protection from climate change

WHO is currently developing a global strategy that outlines the overarching framework for the international response to protect health from climate change. This is being led by WHO and partners in the health sector, and will be coordinated with the efforts of UN and other partner agencies.

WHO role within the UN response to climate change

The health community has a clear role to play in protecting health and wellbeing from impacts of climate change. WHO represents the health community at the international level, and contributes to the overall UN system-wide response by providing health expertise to the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC, by participating in the UNFCCC Nairobi Work Programme on Impacts, vulnerability and adaptation, and by working with other specialized agencies and programmes, such as WMO, UNEP and UNDP, on capacity building and implementation projects.

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Guiding healthy development

Promoting climate change protection and public health

Many of the decisions that affect climate change also have direct implications for human health. WHO is working to highlight "win-win" situations where sustainable development choices can at the same time reduce our impact on the global climate, and improve public health, for example through reducing outdoor and indoor air pollution.

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Strengthening health systems

Regional Workshops on health and climage change

Since 2000 WHO has convened intersectoral government partners at 9 workshops to bring awareness to the impacts of climate change, and share experiences on assessing and addressing climate risks to health. This series of workshops focused on particularly climate sensitive and vulnerable nations within WHO regions. Each workshop has been an important forum not only to raise awareness, but to gain the input of member states on how to address the additional health risks posed by climate change. It has allowed countries to understand and take stock of their national and regional health vulnerabilities and identify their capacity building, information and resource strengths and needs. This provides a firm basis for future protective actions.

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Piloting Health & Climate Adaptation: GEF Project

WHO is partnering with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in a new project to pilot approaches to protect health under a changing and more variable climate, funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF). The project is working in seven countries distributed throughout the world, showing a wide variety of health vulnerabilities to climatic conditions.

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Building partnerships for implementation

Protecting health from climate change requires on a broad partnership that is centred on the health community, but with links to other actors. The regional and country offices of WHO provide close relationships to the health sector within member states, who are the primary defence against health impacts from climate change and variability. The programme also has long-standing collaborations with health research organizations, and with UN and other international and national agencies, that are involved in mitigating and adapting to climate change.

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Evidence and information for action

Beginning in 1990, WHO has published reports describing and evaluating the evidence for health risks from climate change and climate variability. The programme now increasingly focuses on making this information available to the most vulnerable countries, producing technical resources to carry out health vulnerability assessments, and identifying and supporting public health protection within their own national context.

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Monitoring and evaluation

As countries begin to implement actions to protect health from climate change, it will become increasingly important to monitor and evaluate programmes to ensure that they are both effective and timely. WHO is committed to developing monitoring and evaluation frameworks that include both process measures, such as success in raising awareness or coverage of interventions for climate-sensitive diseases, and outcomes, in terms of success in improving population health. These should be integrated within basic health monitoring systems, and be coordinated with systems used to measure success in addressing climate change and achieving sustainable development goals in other sectors.

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