Today, UKHACC joins with health professionals from around the world in calling for economic stimulus packages to prioritise a ‘Healthy Recovery’
Tuesday 26 May 2020
In a letter1 to world leaders including UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and American President Donald Trump, today UKHACC joins with over 40 million doctors, nurses and other health professionals in calling for post-Covid economic stimulus packages to prioritise investments in public health, clean air, clean water and a stable climate.
Such investments would build greater resilience to future pandemics, and simultaneously create more sustainable jobs, it says.
The Largest Health Community Mobilisation
Led by the Global Climate and Health Alliance and the World Health Organization, this collaboration of over 350 organisations is the largest community mobilisation since the 2015 Paris Climate Change agreement.
In addition to the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change’s own support for the letter, several UKHACC members have also chosen to show their support individually. These include the British Medical Association, the Royal College of Nursing, the Faculty of Public Health, the Royal Colleges of Physicians, Surgeons, General Practitioners, Psychiatrists, and of Paediatrics and Child Health, the Primary Care Respiratory Society and the British Association of Stroke Physicians.
Clearly, the Covid-19 pandemic has placed doctors, nurses and other health professionals under intense pressure, and the community has taken a leading role in not only protecting the health of patients on the frontline, but also in advising governments on the actions that must be taken to reduce the threat on a national and international level.
Today the global health community is united in a positive vision for the future, and governments must continue to heed their advice if we are to realise it.
Continued involvement of the health community
While health professionals have long been among the most trusted in society, recent analysis by Ipsos Mori2 shows a significant rise in the proportion of the British public who have confidence in the health service to deal with the current crisis, and who agree that UK health organisations are “doing a good job”.
Building on that public trust, and the pivotal role the health community has played in protecting millions, the leaders of the G20 countries must continue to involve the medical and scientific community in developing the stimulus packages that could drive a ‘healthy recovery’, the signatories say.
Specifically, the letter asks that countries’ Chief Medical Officers and Chief Scientific Advisors are “directly involved in the production of all economic stimulus packages, report on the short- and long-term public health repercussions that these may have, and give their stamp of approval.”
Health as the foundation of a strong economy
Covid has shown that the economy is dependent on health, so a “science-based approach” to a healthy recovery from Covid-19 must mean decisions by international governments that reduce both air pollution, which damages every organ in the body, and greenhouse gas emissions, which drive climate change – causing drought, heatwaves, flooding, changing patterns of infectious diseases and a multitude of other threats to health.3
On the other hand, sustainable and innovative industries, jobs, food production and supply chains must be encouraged – leading more to adopt healthier diets and more active travel, as well as an increase in renewable energy and nature-based solutions to climate change.
“Learn from our mistakes”
As Annette Kennedy, President of the International Council of Nurses has said:
“COVID-19 has forced the world to pause and take stock, providing us with a unique opportunity to make changes that will benefit the planet and all the people on it. Climate change poses an imminent and serious threat to the health of the world’s population. We are calling on governments to make sure that pollution levels do not return to previous levels, so that our children and grandchildren will be able to grow up healthily in a liveable and sustainable climate. It may be the only chance we have for anything positive to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, and to let this opportunity slip by would be unforgivable.”
Governments have the power to make these changes in the next year, depending on where and how they direct the trillions of pounds that will make up their economic stimulus packages. Upcoming international summits give world leaders the opportunity to come together to set public health at the core of all recovery efforts – starting with the G7 summit on June 10, and looking forward to COP26 (now due to take place in Glasgow next year).
At the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change we are considering in more detail the principles that should undermine our domestic response and recovery package, and we’ll be advocating for these on behalf of our members over the coming weeks and months.
Covid has changed many things, amongst them perhaps is our awareness of the vulnerability of global health. One thing that has not changed is the threat of climate change, and the health benefits that tackling it could bring.
As the letter concludes:
“What the world needs now is a #HealthyRecovery… stimulus plans must be a prescription for just that.”
1. Click here for the full text of the letter
2. Coronavirus: Tracking UK Public Perception. Ipsos Mori, 1 May 2020.
3. Watts et al. 2019. The 2019 report of The Lancet Countdown on health and climate change: Ensuring that the health of a child born today is not defined by a changing climate. The Lancet.
UK Health Alliance on Climate Change