On the 70thWorld Health Day, 7 April 2018, a group of medical educational institutes near Pune, launched a Centre for Climate Change and Health, to address the immediate and long-term impacts of the of climate change on public health.
The National Round Table on Impacts of Climate Change and Public Health,medical colleges of the MIT-WPU (Maharashtra Institute of Technology-World Peace Institute), arranged on the same day, concluded that the launch of the Centre marked a turning point in the humanity’s fight against climate change, the issue that hurts the daily life of all the strata of the society, particularly the vulnerable and poor.
Offering WHO’s support and stressing that such Centre is the need of the hour, particularly in emerging economies like India, Dr. Maria Neira, WHO Director, Public Health and the Environment through her video message stated that climate change affects the social and environmental determinants of health i.e. clean air, safe drinking water, nutrient food and secure shelter. “As per WHO ’s estimate, between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250 000 additional deaths per year, from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress”, said Dr Neira.
The Centre would be working under guidance and partnership with Indian Institute of Public Health ( IIPH)- Ahmedabad, Indian Council of Medical Research ( ICMR)-New Delhi, Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology ( IITM)-Pune and National Environmental Engineering Institute ( NEERI)-Nagpur. Awareness among medical students and faculty, specialized courses on climate change and health, post-graduate scholarships and post-doctorate fellowships for studies on the subject would be the immediate activities planned by the Centre. The Centre would be located near Pune at MAEER’s Maharashtra Institute of Medical Education and Research.
“When narration of planetary menace due to climate change is getting engulfed in continental politics and technicalities of temperature and sea level rise, the life-threatening diseases that are intensifying in their frequency and intensity are already taking their toll,” said Rajendra Shende, Chairman of TERRE Policy Centre, former Director of UNEP and a mentor behind the launch of the Centre. “ The direct damage costs to health (i.e. excluding costs in health-determining sectors such as agriculture and water and sanitation), is estimated by WHO to be between US$ 2-4 billion/year by 2030. Indirect social, environmental and economic cost due to damage to health would be much more and would affect the GDP growth of each nation. Costs to the countries with weak health infrastructure – mostly in developing countries – will weaken them further unless assistance is given to prepare them for the response”, further added Mr. Shende.
Dr. Gufran Beig of IITM, who led the development of India’s weather-app that provides real-time data on air-pollution parameters in major cities in India , stated during the roundtable that continued use of fossil fuel is deteriorating air-quality and is impacting the health of all, particularly the children and pregnant women due to respiratory and related threats. As per study in 2017 by Lancet, one of the world’s oldest and best known general medical journal, outdoor and indoor air pollution together cause globally 6.5 million deaths per year, of which nearly 2 million deaths occur in India.
“Developing a strategy to avail the unique opportunity of eliminating the sources responsible for climate change and air pollution could be promoted by the Centre along with field studies on how warmer temperature and fine particulate matters are responsible for respiratory and related ailments of infants, elderly and expectant mothers,” stated Dr Beig.
Heatwaves that are accentuated due to climate change are emerging perils of 21stCentury. Awareness campaigns, early-warning and close data monitoring under the stewardship of Dr Dileep Mavalankar, Director of IIPH has already helped the reducing the deaths due to heat-stress in Ahmedabad. The proposed Centre in Pune would work closely with IIPH in similar campaigns in Talegaon, Pune and Latur, where MIT-WPU has its medical institutes.
While announcing the launch of the centre and its advisory council under Chairmanship of Mr.Shende, the founder President of MIT-WPU, Dr. Vishwanath Karad, declared that , “ the Centre of Climate Change and Health is the timely initiative to prevent the catastrophe facing the humanity that has unfortunately chosen the path of development which degrades the environment. If the dream of Prime Minister Narendra Modi of clean and healthy Bharat is to be realised, the young health-specialists need to research for the innovations.” He further emphasised that the Centre would create enabling conditions to contribute towards Sustainable Development Goal number 3- Good health and well-being for all.
The Centre would deploy the smart technologies like IoT, Big Data analytics and robotics for its campus and field research on health and would be part of the Smart Campus Cloud Network, of TERRE Policy Centre.END