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Over 40 million doctors, nurses and other health professionals from 90 countries, including many working on the frontlines of the Covid-19 pandemic, sent a letter today to G20 leaders urging them to put public health at the centre of their economic recovery packages, to help avoid future crises and make the world more resilient to them.
In the biggest health community mobilisation since the run-up to the 2015 Paris climate agreement, over 350 medical groups representing health professionals — including the World Medical Association, the International Council of Nurses, the Commonwealth Nurses and Midwives Federation, the World Organization of Family Doctors and the World Federation of Public Health Associations — signed the letter on behalf of their members, along with thousands of individual health professionals.
As Covid-19 has made clear, the economy suffers when human health is compromised, the health professionals say. Their message is that a science-based approach to a healthy recovery from Covid-19 must lead to decisions to reduce both air pollution, which weakens the lungs, hearts and other organs, and greenhouse gas emissions, which cause drought, extreme heat, flooding, wildfires and other life-threatening disruptions.
The letter states: “Before COVID-19, air pollution – primarily from traffic, inefficient residential energy use for cooking and heating, coal-fired power plants, the burning of solid waste, and agriculture practices – was already weakening our bodies. It increases the risk of developing, and the severity of: pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, heart disease and strokes, leading to seven million premature deaths each year. Air pollution also causes adverse pregnancy outcomes like low birth weight and asthma, putting further strain on our health care systems.
“A truly healthy recovery will not allow pollution to continue to cloud the air we breathe and the water we drink. It will not permit unabated climate change and deforestation, potentially unleashing new health threats upon vulnerable populations.
“In a healthy economy and civil society the most vulnerable among us are looked after. Workers have access to well-paying jobs that do not exacerbate pollution or nature degradation; cities prioritise pedestrians, cyclists and public transport, and our rivers and skies are protected and clean. Nature is thriving, our bodies are more resilient to infectious diseases, and nobody is pushed into poverty because of healthcare costs.”
The letter’s signatories advocate for using smarter incentives and disincentives to achieve a healthier and more resilient society.
“If governments were to make major reforms to current fossil fuel subsidies, shifting the majority towards the production of clean renewable energy, our air would be cleaner and climate emissions massively reduced, powering an economic recovery that would spur global GDP gains of almost 100 trillion US dollars between now and 2050,” it says.
They also ask that each country’s chief medical officer and chief scientific advisor are “directly involved in the production of all economic stimulus packages, report on the short- and long-term public health repercussions that these may have, and give their stamp of approval”, essentially putting human health and wellbeing at the heart of policymaking.
The call is the most recent in a series of open letters calling for a green, climate-conscious recovery, among them those from multinational companies, prominent economists, several European Union countries, and global investor groups.
The full list of signatories is available here.
Read the full letter here: In support of a #HealthyRecovery
Read the press release and find quotes here: Over 40 million health professionals urge G20 leaders to put public health at the core of Covid-19 recovery
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