Climate Change Health Risks for Vulnerable Groups: Urgent Need for Inclusive Action Plans

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Climate Change Health Risks for vulnerable groups are typically overlooked in climate action plans, despite the fact that they face significant health risks as a result of extreme weather events, air pollution, and rising temperatures.



The health of pregnant women, infants, adolescents, and the elderly is significantly and under-reportedly impacted by climate change, as indicated by a recent compilation of research publications published in the Journal of Global Health.

These vulnerable groups are frequently disregarded in climate change strategies, despite the fact that they are more susceptible to health consequences from extreme weather events, air pollution, and rising temperatures.

The studies underscore the unique susceptibility of these groups to a variety of climate hazards, such as heat surges, air pollution, and natural disasters.

The research, compiled by experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) and international academics, details the specific health threats posed by climate change at various life stages.



The greatest cause of childhood death is the increase in preterm births, which is linked to excessive heat. The risk of newborn death rises by 22.4% for each degree Celsius increase in the minimum daily temperature over 23.9°C. Heatwaves can increase the risk of heart attacks and respiratory problems in the elderly, while also impairing cognitive performance in children and adolescents.


Air Pollution :


Air pollution during pregnancy can lead to high blood pressure, low birth weight, early birth, and impaired fetal brain and lung development. Additionally, it increases the risk of pneumonia, cancer, heart disease, and respiratory illness in neonates and the elderly.


Climate-related disasters, such as droughts and floods, cause malnutrition and a rise in diarrheal infections by disrupting access to safe water and food supplies. Wildfires have been linked to an increase in respiratory disease and heart-related deaths among the elderly.

Beyond Physical Health:

In addition to physical health, mental health is also affected. This is especially true for pregnant women, infants, and elderly adults, who may have weakened immune systems and difficulty regulating body temperature, as displacements caused by climate change disrupt access to essential healthcare and social support.

Director of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health and Ageing at WHO, Dr. Anshu Banerjee, stated, “These studies demonstrate that climate change is not a distant threat, but a real and present danger to human health, with certain populations suffering disproportionately.”. “While awareness is growing, action to safeguard the most vulnerable remains inadequate.”

With 2023 marking the hottest year on record and a string of climate emergencies like wildfires and floods, protecting vulnerable populations from climate change’s health consequences is more urgent than ever, says WHO.


South East Asia Records Highest Climate Deaths: WHO

Southeast Asia, including India, suffers the highest number of climate change-related deaths annually according to the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Southeast Asia, Dr. Saima Wazed.

“This is a worrying reality,” stated Dr. Wazed. “Our region leads the world in deaths attributed to climate change each year.”

Dr. Wazed highlighted the significant threats posed by climate change and biodiversity loss to public health, regional economies, and livelihoods. Environmental degradation, including air and water pollution, coupled with climate change, contributes to a multitude of public health issues. Stronger collaboration between the health and environment sectors is crucial to address these shared challenges.

“SEA Regional Plan of Action for the WHO Global Strategy on Health, Environment and Climate Change 2020-2030: Healthy Environments for Healthier Population” provides a roadmap for the health sector to combat the effects of rising temperatures, Dr. Wazed said.

she calls for integrating health assessments into land-use planning to evaluate potential impacts on air and water quality, food security, and exposure to hazards like drought.


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Source: ESG Times

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