Temperature and precipitation trends influence the seasonality and distribution of infectious diseases. Extreme weather events threaten the lives, livelihoods and food security of vulnerable populations. Climate and hydrological cycles influence life-bearing food security as well as drinking water and sanitation. Air quality and atmospheric conditions determine human exposure to hazardous elements, including natural and anthropogenic air pollutants, and ultraviolet (UV) and other forms of radiation.
In response to a growing demand from the health community for climate and weather services, WMO has strengthened its partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO) to accelerate access and application of weather and climate services for public health. Climate and weather information can help health professionals understand the ways in which weather and climate influence health risks, outcomes and health service delivery. The use and application of this knowledge vis-à-vis health tailored decision tools and climate services can help the health sector anticipate problems and manage health risks. Collaboration between the meteorological and public health sector provides decision-makers – from the individual to national leaders – with essential tools to anticipate elevated risks, plan effective preparedness and response strategies.
The WHO/WMO Joint Office for Climate and Health, established mid-2014, provides WMO with new technical expertise in public health, and strengthens WMO collaboration with WHO and other health partners. It takes the lead in the implementation of health sector activities under the Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS) to accelerate health sector access to and use of relevant climate, weather and environmental information for health risk management. The Joint Office serves to:
- advance policy and strategic support for climate services for health;
- support project and research development and implementation;
- strengthen relevant climate services for health partnerships; and
- build capacity through awareness raising, outreach and technical guidance.
Climate Hazards relevant for Health
Climate variability and human-induced climate change have important consequences for health as they threaten to alter the geographical and temporal distributions of disease; exacerbate extreme weather events; challenge global health systems and infrastructure; and undermine ecosystem services that are vital for human health. Climate change affects the social and environmental determinants of health such as clean air, safe drinking water, food security and sufficient shelter. Some of the largest disease burdens are caused by infectious diseases that are sensitive to climate: Malaria kills almost 1 million people per year, undernutrition kills 3.5 million, and diarrhea kills 2.2 million. Additionally, roughly 60 000 people die as a result of extreme weather events per year.
Climate hazards that are relevant to human health are outlined below.