Global Health: Treating Causes, not Symptoms

5 minute read

Updated on: 17th Nov 2020

Solving the climate crisis may be one of the most important health opportunities of the 21st century ! In this chapter we look at how health and climate change are linked and why this is important .

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Indoor air pollution and health

The smoke and soot produced when cooking with these fuels indoors can cause heart and lung diseases, as well as cancers and strokes . Because of these diseases, indoor air pollution is responsible for 4.3 million early deaths every year , mostly in developing countries, as shown below .

Image of Many countries face a lot of death from indoor air pollution

Many countries face a lot of death from indoor air pollution

These traditional cooking methods also contribute 2-5% of global annual greenhouse gas emissions .These are caused by burning the fuels and deforestation to gather them .

Image of Earthly suffering the impacts of traditional cooking

Earthly suffering the impacts of traditional cooking

Improved cookstoves (either solar-powered or clean fuel-burning) can cut emissions by as much as 95% as well as saving lives: for example, it is estimated that 150 million clean cookstoves could help avoid 2.2 million early deaths in India .

There are even more benefits! Improved cookstoves use less fuel, which reduces the time people spend gathering firewood. This is a difficult, and sometimes dangerous, task .

Outdoor air pollution

Stopping indoor air pollution is only half of the story. Transport is a major source of outdoor air pollution and contributed 16% of the global greenhouse gas emissions in 2014 . It is also estimated that emissions from transport contributed to 385,000 early deaths in 2015 .

Image of Earthly suffering from outdoor air pollution

Earthly suffering from outdoor air pollution

More use of public transport and electric cars are possible solutions .

More walking and cycling would be even better – these reduce emissions, improve local air quality and help prevent diseases related to inactive lifestyles .

Image of Earthly choosing cleaner transport solutions

Earthly choosing cleaner transport solutions

Protecting Nature and Health

Cutting down trees not only results in carbon emissions , but can also lead to more disease outbreaks. How?

75% of new infectious diseases in humans come from animals .

Image of Zoonoses are diseases that come from animals

Zoonoses are diseases that come from animals

When forests are cut down, and roads built within them, humans come into much closer contact with the animals that live there. This means that diseases are more likely to spread between them .

Image of Deforestation can cause more disease outbreaks

Deforestation can cause more disease outbreaks

Preventing the loss of forests could reduce the chance of future disease outbreaks at the same time as limiting carbon emissions .

And that’s not the only health reason for protecting nature. A growing body of evidence suggests that experiencing nature can have great benefits for our physical and mental wellbeing . Put simply, being around plants and animals makes us happy !

Image of Earthly meditating

Earthly meditating

Diet and Health

We currently produce enough food to feed our global population , but this is not shared equally. 11% of the global population is undernourished which means they don’t have enough food to support a normal, healthy life . At the same time, 8% of global deaths were due to obesity in 2017 .

Eating too much meat (particularly red and processed meats ), processed food, and sugary drinks is leading to obesity as well as type 2 diabetes and some cancers .

Research suggests that healthier diets should include less processed food and meat .

Image of Healthy diets save lives

Healthy diets save lives

Conclusion

Healthier diets, clean cookstoves and transport choices are just three of the ways we can improve global health and slow climate change at the same time . Solutions that help people and the planet!

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