WHO Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health e-News

Public health, environmental and social determinants of health (PHE)

ISSUE 107, APRIL 2019

Dear Readers,

The April issue of the World Health Organization (WHO) Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health (PHE) e-News brings you the latest on:

One in four health care facilities worldwide lacks basic water services

One in four health care facilities around the world lacks basic water services, impacting over two billion people, according to a new report by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (JMP). The WHO/UNICEF JMP report, WASH in health care facilities, is the first comprehensive global assessment of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in health care facilities. The assessment also found that one in five health care facilities has no sanitation service, impacting 1.5 billion people worldwide.

In an accompanying report, the WHO and UNICEF Practical steps to achieve universal access to quality care report provides details on eight actions that governments can take to improve the WASH services in health care facilities. These include establishing national plans and targets, improving infrastructure and maintenance, and engaging communities. These actions and resulting improvements in WASH services could yield dramatic returns on investment in the form of improved maternal and newborn health, the prevention of antimicrobial resistance and disease outbreaks, and improved quality of care.

An end to electronic waste: Building the E-waste Coalition

The transition towards a more digital world along with a growing information society and economy offer unprecedented opportunities for sustainable development. At the same time, they contribute to the growth of the global consumption of electrical and electronic equipment, and – consequently – to growing amounts of electronic (e)-waste. Used, broken or obsolete equipment, such as mobile phones, laptops, sensors, TVs and fridges, contain substances that pose considerable health and environmental risks, especially if treated inadequately. Today, most e-waste is not properly documented or treated through appropriate recycling chains and methods, whilst circular economy thinking has not been fully adopted. Thus, the amount of e-waste is growing rapidly, resulting in large dump sites around the world.

Last year, seven United Nations entities signed a Letter of Intent expressing their commitment towards tackling the e-waste challenge. On Friday 12 April, an additional three entities (World Health Organization, International Trade Centre and UN Human Settlements Programme) expressed their intent. The dialogue provided a platform for the exchange of views on the current e-waste management challenge and to consider concrete actions for building the E-waste Coalition, taking into account the comparative advantages of its different members.

World Conference on Health and Climate Change, taking care of humankind at +2  °C

The world is at a critical juncture, with more people displaced from their homes than ever before as a result of climate change, natural disasters and conflicts. On the 100th anniversary of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, WHO is supporting the World Conference on Health and Climate Change, under the title ‘Taking care of humankind at +2 °C’. Climate change is already impacting human health and has become the largest emerging health crisis of our time. WHO also presented the latest scientific research and innovative solutions to take up the biggest public health challenge of the 21st century. This “humanitarian Conference of the Parties (COP)” took place 15–16 April 2019 in Cannes, France.

Safety and health and the future of work

The World Day for Safety and Health at Work 2019 to be held on 28 April is devoted to occupational health in the future of work. ‘The future of work’ is the overarching theme of the Centenary International Labour Conference, which will be followed by a UN-wide strategy. On this occasion, the WHO shared their vision on making the future of work a healthier future for all working people by recognizing health and safety at work and as being a fundamental right for everyone. This requires reforming occupational health and safety regulations and governance to cover all workers in all forms of work, extending universal coverage to workers in the informal economy, on digital platforms and including migrant and domestic workers. It also incorporates building global capacities for monitoring the health impacts of the most widespread occupational risks worldwide by country, age group and gender.

Risk communications: Air pollution and health

In response to rising public health concerns about the effects associated with air pollution, WHO held a risk communication and personal level interventions expert consultation. This meeting focused on the importance of providing evidence‐based recommendations to the public, health care workers and patients on how to reduce personal exposure to air pollution, and on the best ways to communicate potential risks in general. To address these issues, the new report outlines the current state of evidence and elements of guidance about sources of air pollution and health impacts, air quality indexes, populations at risk, how to avoid exposure, physical activity in air-polluted places, indoor air filters, face masks, equity issues, the role of medical and patients’ organizations, and communication in general around air pollution. The meeting was held in Geneva, 12-14 February 2019, at WHO headquarters.

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