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WHO calls for global action to "protect health from climate change"

As momentum for action on climate change continues to grow, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced today that it will focus its World Health Day 2008 theme on “protecting health from climate change.”

The World Health Organization was born out of international commitment to build global security and peace. Sixty years later, that same sense of vulnerability and solidarity is bringing the global community together to address the growing threat of climate change to public health security.

"Just as health and wellbeing was seen as a defining aspect of peace and security," notes Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General," so too, the health and wellbeing of populations must become the defining measure of the impact of climate change and our efforts to address it effectively". Climate change is finding itself in an increasingly central position on the international agenda, as most recently evidenced by the Nobel Prize awarded to former US Vice President Al Gore and a team of UN experts for their work on the subject. Today, it is becoming clearer that sustainable development leads to healthy environments and enhanced public health.

"Health professionals are on the front line in dealing with the impacts of climate change. The most vulnerable populations are those who live in countries where the health sector already struggles to prevent, detect, control and treat diseases and health conditions, including malaria, malnutrition and diarrhoea. Climate change will highlight and exacerbate these weaknesses by bringing new pressures on public health, with greater frequency".

“We need to put public health at the heart of the climate change agenda," Dr Chan added. "This includes mobilizing governments and stakeholders to collaborate on strengthening surveillance and control of infectious diseases, safer use of diminishing water supplies, and health action in emergencies."

On World Health Day 2008, communities and organizations around the world will host activities to establish greater awareness and public understanding of health consequences of climate change, and to show the impact of the growing interdependency between these two areas on national and international decisions and policies.

About World Health Day

World health Day was created in 1948 by the First World Health Assembly to mark the founding of the World Health Organization. World Health Day takes place on 7 April annually and serves to raise awareness of key global public health challenges. World Health Day 2008 will mark the 60th anniversary of WHO.

For further information, please contact:

Climate change and health

Ms Christine McNab
Telephone: +41 22 791 4688
E-mail: mcnabc@who.int

Dr Maria Neira
Telephone: +41 22 791 5526
E-mail: neiram@who.int

WHO 60th anniversary and World Health Day 2008

Ms Andrée Pinard Clark
Telephone: +41 22 791 4670
E-mail: who60@who.int

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