Centre asks states to devise strategy for tackling health challenges posed by climate change

NEW DELHI
21 Sep 2017

The Union government has directed states to submit strategies for tackling health challenges posed by climate change and extreme weather conditions in their respective regions as part of a comprehensive national-level strategy which is in the works.
The plan is aimed at protecting people against climate- sensitive illnesses including cardio-respiratory diseases, certain types of cancer and allergies. The 'National Action Plan on Climate Change and Human Health' has been drafted by an expert group constituted under the Health Mission of the Prime Minister's Council on Climate Change. At a regional consultation organised on Wednesday by the Union health ministry, the health and environment disaster departments, and the meteorological divisions of the north Indian states were asked to frame 'State Action Plans'.
Dr Jagdish Prasad, Director General of Health Services of the Health Ministry, said every state has specific health issues depending on weather. "Some states are prone to drought and floods, while desert and coastal regions have specific illnesses. The aim is to reduce morbidity, mortality, injuries and illnesses caused due to climate change and extreme weather conditions. "Also, states have been asked to form councils for climate change at the chief ministerial level to strengthen preparedness and response at the state, district and below- district levels to cope with adverse health impacts of disasters," said Prasad.  He said that climate-sensitive illnesses have to be identified, listed and prioritised by each state for creating a database and developing a mechanism to combat the health effects of climate change. The health ministry is learnt to have held meetings with the southern states too and will hold more such meets with other states.
"The aim is to have a national policy that would include an integrated early health warning system, state specific emergency response plan, along with increased capacity to provide health care to the most vulnerable and the marginalised populations," Dr Prasad said. As per the draft action plan, increased frequency and intensity of heat waves, heat-related illnesses, increased precipitation, floods, and drought -- all caused by climate change -- are claiming human lives. High temperature is known to increase the level of ground-level ozone and climate altering pollutants other than carbon dioxide which exacerbates cardio-respiratory and allergic diseases, and causes certain types of cancer.
Problems like floods and droughts are also indirectly affecting people's health by forcing their dislocation, causing gastro-intestinal illness and water and food-borne diseases.