The impacts of extreme weather and climate change on health and well-being is one of the greatest challenges of the 21st Century.
For the first time the Met Office, supported by The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and World Health Organization (WHO), organised an international workshop exploring how meteorological and health organisations, together with other sectors, could address up and coming challenges which cross national borders.
Adverse weather and climate conditions exacerbate some of the most significant health challenges including disease, air pollution and food production. Whether a disease is passed through the air, water or carried by insects, the impacts of climate and extreme weather can increase the risk.
Opening the workshop, Professor Dame Julia Slingo, Chief Scientist at the Met Office (pictured above) and recipient of this year’s IMO Prize, said: “Addressing the health impacts of climate variability and climate change is really the great gap that has not received adequate attention in the past, but these will be big issues for us all to contend with in a changing world.
“The Met Office already provides health services, such as pollen, air quality and UV forecasts – supporting the natural hazard partnership – and provides support to the health research community. But on an international scale, there is so much more which needs to be done, with much greater global reach.”
Attended by over 50 experts, discussions specifically focused on issues of: health risks, natural hazards impacts; the complexity of global climate risk scenarios; and how to build capacity for climate and health in developing countries.
Following a disaster the impacts on health can be overwhelming. For effective recovery and rehabilitation there needs to be an understanding and awareness of health problems and delivery of effective preventative measures.
Yolanda Clewlow, the Met Office’s health development manager, said: “Given the passion demonstrated by the group on this topic to work toward mitigating the impacts of weather and climate on health, we hope this will be a significant step towards greater collaboration with health organisations to help address some of the significant health priorities.
“There was agreement among participants that the Met Office already has strong existing capabilities that enable it to become a leading global partner in this area and, as a result of this event, the Met Office will look to new partnerships, as well as the strengthening of existing relationships, to help implement some of the key actions that emerged from these discussions.”
In 2014, the WMO produced a short video on how the UK uses climate services to support public health.