Reducing environmental pollution could cut 24% of deaths, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations (UN).
The two organisations have published a new compendium, outlining how governments and policymakers can reduce disease from environmental factors.
The compendium includes practical advice that will allow governments and policy makers to scale up efforts to create a healthy environment.
The recommendations include actions to address air pollution, unsafe water, climate change, chemicals and radiation.
Air pollution alone leads to 7 million deaths each year, and climate change is expected to contribute increasingly to a broad range of health impacts, both directly and indirectly through effects on biodiversity.
It is hoped that the compendium will also help to achieve health equity, with low- and middle-income countries currently bearing the greatest environmental burden in all types of diseases and injuries.
Dr Maria Neira, director of the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health, at WHO said: ‘Events like record-breaking high temperatures in North America, massive flooding in Europe and China, and devastating wildfire seasons provide increasingly frequent, grim reminders that countries need to step up action to eliminate the health impacts of environmental risk factors.
‘Implementing the actions in the compendium should be part of a healthy and green recovery from the Covid pandemic and beyond, and is essential to attaining the Sustainable Development Goals. The UN is uniting its health and environment expertise to support countries in this endeavour.’
Monika MacDevette, chief of the Chemicals and Health Branch at the UN Environment Programme added: ‘Channelling investments into the actions that address the triple planetary crises of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution, which have profound implications for health, is key.
‘We must transform the way we value nature if we are to safeguard the health and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals — a major shift that requires multi-sector multi-agency efforts.
‘This compendium, by making available key tools and methodologies developed by a broad range of development partners is an important step in this direction and in promoting a positive environment and health outcomes.’
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