After COP 26, Stephanie Foster (OH Nurse Advisor and educator) wrote an excellent article “The Impact of Climate Change on Global Health” for OH Today. This article and her sentiments are just as relevant today, and we urge those involved in OH to read it.
As she mentioned, Occupational Health practitioners are in the unique position of being able to consider the health impacts of climate on the working population, and how an individual’s employment might affect their exposure and personal risk.
OH have a key role in interpreting the science, raising awareness, and supporting individuals and businesses in their attempts to mitigate the health impacts of climate change.
An important skill of OH is absence or attendance management. A study by the union, TUC, highlighted that most employers have experienced increased absenteeism associated with adverse weather events, be that due to health, travel, or infrastructure issues. While 70% acknowledge the health and safety implications and risks to their workforce from future climate change.
The article details the health risks of extreme heat and cold!
The problem hasn’t been resolved. WHO and ILO published their estimate of the work-related burden to health due to climate and environment change: Environment, Climate Change and Health (who.int). Within their fact sheet on Climate Change and Health is a useful infographic explaining the hazards and risks from exposure, accounting for vulnerability factors.
As COP 28 has been in full swing, Yale University reported 5 key findings based on the Lancet countdown report. The first and most shocking is the impact on lives and livelihoods of climate change with the second point detailing a 4.7% increase in related deaths. The effect on health inequalities is shown with little intervention in place. Change needs to happen for us to avoid a humanitarian crisis. This change needs to include “improved energy access and security, cleaner air, safer drinking water, healthier diets and lifestyles, and more livable cities”.