Climate change and health-Health workers on climate, community, and the urgent need for action

Climate change and health: Health workers on climate, community, and the urgent need for action

Reda SadkiGlobal health

As world leaders gathered for the COP28 climate conference, the Geneva Learning Foundation called for the insights of health workers on the frontlines of climate and health to be heard amidst the global dialogue.

Ahead of Teach to Reach 10, a new eyewitness report analyses 219 new insights shared by 122 health professionals – primarily those working in local communities across Africa, Asia and Latin America – to two critical questions: How is climate change affecting the health of the communities you serve right now? And what actions must world leaders take to help you protect the people in your care?

(Teach to Reach is a regular peer learning event. The tenth edition on 20-21 June 2024 is expected to gather over 20,000 community-based health workers to share experience of climate change impacts on health. Request your invitation here.)

Their answers paint a picture of the accelerating health crisis unfolding in the world’s most climate-vulnerable regions. Community nurses, doctors, midwives and public health officers detail how volatile weather patterns are driving up malnutrition, infectious disease, mental illness, and more – while simultaneously battering health systems and blocking patient access to care.

Yet woven throughout are also threads of resilience, ingenuity and hope. Health advocates are not just passively observing the impacts of climate change, but actively responding – often with scarce resources. From spearheading tree-planting initiatives to strengthening infectious disease surveillance to promoting climate literacy, they are innovating locally-tailored solutions.

Importantly, respondents emphasize that climate impacts cannot be viewed in isolation, but rather as one facet of the interlocking crises of environmental destruction, poverty, and health inequity. Their insights make clear that climate action and community health are two sides of the same coin – and that neither will be achieved without deep investment in local health workforces and systems.

Rooted in direct lived experience and charged with moral urgency, these frontline voices offer a stirring reminder that climate change is not some distant specter, but a life-and-death challenge already at the doorsteps of the global poor. As this new collection of insights implores, it’s high time their perspectives moved from the margins to the center of the climate debate.

As Charlotte Mbuh of The Geneva Learning Foundation explains: “We hope that the chorus of voices will grow to strengthen the case for  why and how investment in human resources for health is likely to be a ‘best buy’ for community-focused efforts to build the climate resilience of public health systems.”

Jones, I., Mbuh, C., Sadki, R., & Steed, I. (2024). Climate change and health: Health workers on climate, community, and the urgent need for action (1.0). The Geneva Learning Foundation.