New Partnership to Produce Health and Climate Research
Davos WEF
Climate and health panel at WEF 2023, Davos.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) will partner with Wellcome Trust to collect research-based data on how climate change is affecting health. 

Making the announcement, WEF’s head of health Shyam Bishen said that while several organisations were working on data collection, most data is fragmented with different organisations. 

“We want to ensure that we have a good amount of research-based data that we can take to policymakers and bring it all together to respond to it,” said Bishen.

However,  Dr Victor Dzau, the president of the US National Academy of Medicine, said that not research was being produced on climate change and health.

“Most of the evidence is associative evidence, like air pollution causes 700,000 deaths and therefore it’s climate change. So we need to do some serious research in linking climate and health and health outcomes, providing the evidence,” he told a panel on climate and health.

“I think there needs to be more action-oriented research to say, what do we need to do? Or what are the interventions that will result in any evidence. I think the policy makers will be willing to listen to those issues. We’ve told the narratives and data to say it’s really hurting people’s lives, but here’s where actions need to be taken,” Dzau explained.  

Disease prevention key 

What several people overlook when talking about climate crisis and the ways to address it is the role prevention of diseases plays in it, said Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson.

“If you go on to be diabetic, you’ll create between 30 and 45 tons of carbon because the way healthcare is delivered to you, medicines that are made, transportation to a hospital, caregivers getting to a hospital. So preventative health, helping people not make the journey from pre-diabetic to diabetic, for example, can have a mind boggling impact, positively, not only on them, but also on the climate,” said Hudson.

The global average carbon emissions per person is around five tons.

While the world thinks a lot about climate change and communicable diseases, the same importance is not given to the relationship between climate change and non-communicable diseases (NCDs), said Vanessa Kerry, CEO of Seed Global Health. She added that malnutrition, preterm births and stillbirths are all impacted by climate change. 

“Air pollution is the second leading cause of non-communicable diseases globally right now and the first in southeast Asia. When you think about what that impact looks like, that’s actually about $47 trillion in costs globally between 2010 and 2030 just to manage some of that disease,” she pointed out. 

A 2022 study of 137 countries estimated that nearly half of all stillbirths across the world have links with air pollution. Although the exact mechanisms behind this link are unclear, the study estimated that cutting air pollution down to the levels recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) could prevent around 710,000 stillbirths every year. 

Image Credits: Screengrab from WEF live stream. .

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