On World Health Day, PAHO Director calls for concerted action to protect the health of the planet and its people – PAHO/WHO

Washington, DC, April 7, 2021 (OPS) – After two years of the COVID-19 pandemic and millions of lives lost to the virus, the Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Carissa F. Etienne, commemorated Health Day by calling for urgent protection of the environment and highlighted how the health of the planet is linked to our own.

“The so-called triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution affects the health of everyone, as well as our planet. These effects are amplified by deficiencies in infrastructure and health systems to prevent diseases and respond effectively to crises, disasters and emergencies,” the director said during a high-level online event titled “Our Planet, Our Health” attended by more than 400 participants.

Several health ministers from the region, including Dr. Carla Vizzotti, Minister of Health of Argentina, Dr. José Manuel Matheu, Secretary of Health of Honduras, and Dr. Christopher Tufton, Minister of Health and Welfare -being from Jamaica, participated in the PAHO virtual conference event to commemorate the day, as did Dr. Jacqueline Álvarez, Director for Latin America and the Caribbean of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) .

Focusing on the Americas as one of the most unequal regions in the world, “where wealth inequality, political inequality and social inequality are endemic”, Dr. Etienne stressed that “further transformation efforts must be done to protect the health of the populations most vulnerable to environmental risks”.

“Over the past three decades, we have witnessed concerted global action to build a sustainable planet. During this period, we have seen improvements in health services and in the health of the peoples of the Region of the Americas,” said the Director of PAHO. Intersectoral collaboration between the health and water and sanitation sectors, for example, has reduced the risk of mortality among children under 5 from 219 to 23 deaths per 100,000 population. that is, they have saved 1.8 million young lives since 1990,” added Dr Etienne.

However, it is estimated that each year in the Americas there are one million premature deaths attributable to preventable environmental hazards. Air pollution, contaminated water, inadequate sanitation including solid waste management, risks from certain hazardous chemicals and adverse effects from climate change are the most pressing environmental threats to the public health in the Region. .

“Today’s World Health Day theme – Our Planet, Our Health – is a call for a green and healthy recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, which puts the health of people and the planet at the center of actions and promotes a movement to create well-being -targeted on societies”, added Dr Etienne, calling on Member States to renew their commitment to regional solidarity and to strengthen individual and collective actions to better protect the health of the region.

To help countries make progress in solving environmental and health challenges, PAHO launched the Agenda for the Americas on Health, Environment, and Climate Change, 2021-2030 last year. he declares. The program will benefit all countries and territories, including by promoting good governance practices, strengthening leadership and coordination roles in the health sector, and encouraging intersectoral action.

“The future depends on us, because we are not only the guardians of today, but the architects of tomorrow”, concluded Dr Etienne.

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Additional press information:

– About 431 million people in the Region of the Americas still do not have access to safe sanitation, and of these, 9.9 million still practice open defecation; 161 million people still do not have access to safe drinking water, causing some 30,000 preventable deaths every year.

– Household and ambient air pollution is linked to nearly 320,000 preventable deaths per year in the Region from stroke, heart disease, lung disease and cancer. Around the world, nearly 80 million people still rely on polluting fuels, such as solid fuels or kerosene, to meet their lighting, cooking and heating needs, a problem that disproportionately affects women and the children.

– La población sigue expuesta a sustancias químicas peligrosas, como el mercurio, el plomo y los pesticidas, que no sólo ponen en peligro la salud de las personas directamente expuestas, sino también la de los niños no nacidos, que pueden sufrir efectos harmful pendante toda his life.

– Extreme weather events can directly increase the prevalence of certain diseases and cause injury and death. In addition, changing weather patterns can alter human health, exacerbate food and water insecurity and population migration, compromise mental health, and alter usual patterns of zoonotic and waterborne disease transmission. People living in poverty, in precarious housing conditions on small islands and coastal areas, are at increased risk due to increased frequency and severity of weather events and rising sea levels, associated with reduced adaptive capacity.

– New health risks related to the environment are increasingly recognized: for example, exposure to substances present in electronic waste, the environmental and health effects of micro- and nano-plastics, and the increase in antimicrobial resistance, among others.

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