Air pollution, climate change biggest threat to global health: WHO
January 23, 2019 01:00 PM NPT
Climate change, superbugs and anti-vaccination campaigns are among the top ten biggest threats to global health in 2019, according to the World Health Organisation.
Topping this year's list of the greatest environmental risk to health is air pollution and climate change.
Nine out of ten people now breath polluted air, which kills 7 million people every year, says WHO.
Around 90% of these deaths are in low and middle-income countries, with high volumes of emissions from industry, transport and agriculture, as well as dirty cookstoves and fuels in homes.
Noncommunicable diseases, such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease, are collectively responsible for over 70% of all deaths worldwide, or 41 million people. 85% of premature deaths in people aged 35 to 69 are in low and middle-income countries.
The growing anti-vaccination movement has also made it onto the list, with the health organisation claiming some people’s reluctance or refusal to vaccinate threatens to reverse progress made against a host of preventable diseases.
“Vaccination is one of the most cost-effective ways of avoiding disease — it currently prevents 2-3 million deaths a year, and a further 1.5 million could be avoided if global coverage of vaccinations improved,” WHO said in a statement.
Driven by complacency, inconvenience in accessing vaccines and lack of confidence, “the effects of what WHO called “vaccine hesitancy” are already significant” says CBS News.
For example, cases of measles have surged 30% worldwide in recent years, despite an effective vaccine that can prevent it. CBS says that in the US around 100,000 children have not been vaccinated against any of the 14 potentially serious diseases for which vaccines are recommended, according to a report released last year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Air pollution affects happiness not just health, scientists find (read below)
One century after the 1918 flu pandemic killed millions of people around the globe, the WHO also warns of the dangers of a new global influenza pandemic.
The health body is unsure when and how the epidemic will hit the global population, but “the various influenza viruses are being constantly monitored to detect any signs of a pandemic”, says The Quint.
Linked to this is the rise in drug-resistant superbugs, “a dark side to the incredible success of antibiotics, antivirals and antimalarials”, says CNN.
Overuse of such treatments means that “antimicrobial resistance - the ability of bacteria, parasites, viruses and fungi to resist these medicines - threatens to send us back to a time when we were unable to easily treat infections such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, gonorrhea, and salmonellosis”, warns the WHO.
About 1.6 million people die each year from tuberculosis, and many patients suffer because antibiotics no longer work effectively.
The agency says it is working on a plan to fight antimicrobial resistance by increasing awareness, reducing infection and encouraging cautious use of such drugs.
The WHO has also highlighted the high proportion (22% or 1.6 billion) of the world’s population who live in places where protracted crises, through a combination of challenges such as drought, famine, conflict, and population displacement, and weak health services leave them without access to basic care.
The UN’s public health agency has warned that unless these threats are addressed, millions of lives will be in jeopardy.
To protect 3 billion people worldwide in 2019, the WHO has launched a new five-year-strategic plan.
This will ensure “one billion more people benefit from access to universal health coverage, one billion more people are protected from health emergencies and one billion more people enjoy better health and well-being”.
Air pollution affects happiness not just health, scientists find
Air pollution is not just bad for health also makes people unhappy, a new study has shown.
Researchers at MIT and the University of Beijing discovered a direct link between the amount of particulates in the air and happiness.
Research has previously shown that air pollution is damaging to health, cognitive performance, labor productivity, and educational outcomes.
But air pollution also has a broader impact on people's social lives and behavior, according Siqi Zheng, the Samuel Tak Lee Associate Professor in MIT's Department of Urban Studies
“Pollution also has an emotional cost,” said Dr Zheng. “People are unhappy, and that means they may make irrational decisions.”
Researchers used pollution data from 144 Chinese cities and monitored general happiness of urban dwellers by looking at the mood using 210 million messages from China's largest microblogging platform, Sina Weibo.
They found a significantly negative correlation between pollution and happiness levels, with every increase in pollution above a healthy level bringing happiness down by 0.04 points out of 100.
On Monday some parts of London recorded Air Quality Index (AQI) levels of 151, more than 100 points above healthy limits.
It suggests that people were four points unhappier than they would have been without polluted levels. For China, pollution can rise into the 700s, which could be having a major impact on happiness.
Women were also found to me more sensitive to higher pollution levels than men, as were those on higher incomes.