Covid 19: sustainable health development and climate resilience

Author(s): Jesslyn Thay , Date: 20 September 2021

Many health experts believe that climate change has played a significant part in the coronavirus pandemic – with changing climates forcing millions of people to move and upsetting the delicate wildlife-human frontier.

The European Regional office for the World Health Organization has released framework and recommendations about recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and what can be done differently to strengthen future health systems in a sustainable way for an unpredictable future.

Wide-reaching health impacts of climate change

Currently climate change is having a massive impact on the lives of millions across the globe, but future predictions estimate that billions of individuals will be at risk from a changing climate – touching the lives of nearly everyone in the world.

Climate change and changing environments bring many health risks from increased pollution from wildfires; increasing habitats for disease vectors , record high temperatures, poor sanitation due to water scarcity; and food insecurity.

Due to record high temperatures across the world, wildfires have been on the increase across Europe, Australia, Latin America and North America. Smoke pollution and particulate matter, from scrubland and forest fires, can have significant impact on people’s respiratory systems as well as leading to developing cardiovascular disorders.

It is estimated that that excess deaths due to the climate change could increase by 250,000 a year with the vulnerable and poor at greater risk.

Climate change and covid-19

Human activities like deforestation, a changing climate, trade and consumption of wildlife, and international travel are thought to have led to the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 and facilitated its global spread. This is also the pathway that a potential ‘disease X’ could emerge and be the next pandemic.

Coronavirus symptoms can be made much worse when people have been breathing in smoke from fires, as wildfire smoke irritates the lining of the lungs and causes inflammation leaving a person more vulnerable to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, says the CDC.

Sustainable health development

Sustainable health system development and increased climate resilience is needed to overcome future health crises, whether these are due to climatic change or from another origin. Resilient health systems are needed to help society deal with the unexpected in a better way to prevent loss of life.

In a new statement released by the World Health Organization, the director of the European Region presented findings and recommendations from the Pan-European Commission on Health and Sustainable Development on sustainable health development strategy .

The recommendations are from leading experts across many different scientific and economic backgrounds, not just health, on how countries and policymakers can become resilient against future health crises and how this can be achieved in a sustainable way.

The main recommendation was to fully recognise the interconnections between the health of humans, animals, plants and the planet – environment, biodiversity and climate above all – the resulting One Health policy will help fight future health crises.

The Commission recommends countries establish cross-government One Health strategies, based on the concept of “health in all policies”, to safeguard future generations from existential threats.

The resulting One Health policy should be integrated into economic and financial, technological, social and international policies also to give more holistic approach to future health crises.


For further reading, the search on CABI Global Health: (("climate change" OR "climatic change" OR "global warming") AND (("coronavirus" or "COVID")) finds 246 records.



World Health Organization (2021) Drawing light from the pandemic: A new strategy for health and sustainable development