The UK Health Alliance on Climate Change urges stronger government action on Climate Change, which will continue to increase the risk of heat-related illnesses and death.
Temperatures this week are predicted to exceed the record-breaking summer of 2018, with highs of over 35°C. Climate change greatly increases the likelihood, length and severity of such heatwaves, and is the greatest health threat of the 21st century. Last year’s summer heatwave is estimated to account for up to 900 excess deaths1, 2.
The UK Health Alliance on Climate Change supports the government’s commitment to net-zero emissions by 2050, but stronger action is urgently required to address the climate emergency and safeguard public health.
By reducing emissions, investing in active travel (such as cycling), and encouraging healthy and sustainable diets, the government could tackle climate change and realise major co-benefits to health.
Speaking on behalf of the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, Gordon Miles, said:
“As an organisation of professional emergency doctors, the Royal College of Emergency Medicine recognises the climate emergency and the need for urgent action to mitigate against the increasing risks it brings to public health.
“The impact of heat-related health conditions is felt particularly by emergency doctors working in already overcrowded A&E departments across the country.
“Dehydration, heat exhaustion and overheating can all have a serious and immediate effect on health. We urge members of the public to take precautions in this hot weather – ensuring that they stay hydrated and protect themselves from the sun.”
Speaking on behalf of the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard – Chair of the Royal College of GPs – said:
“The underlying causes behind the increasing frequency and severity of heatwaves in the UK are profoundly concerning, and rising temperatures pose some serious health risks – particularly for young children, the elderly and those with chronic health conditions.
“Good weather is great for getting people out and about and doing more physical activity, but we urge people to look after themselves in this exceptionally hot weather by drinking plenty of water, applying sun cream, wearing suitable loose clothing and eye protection, and staying out of the sun during the hottest parts of the day.
“While anyone who is particularly unwell after being in the sun should seek medical attention, most minor sun-related health conditions can be treated with self-care, and pharmacists will be able to offer advice about which over-the-counter product is best for any problems.
“Climate change will increase the likelihood, length and severity of heatwaves in the UK, which will place extreme pressure on the NHS as it responds to what is becoming a seasonal crisis to match the winter pressures we deal with each year, so urgent Government action must be taken.”
Notes for editors:
The UK Health Alliance on Climate Change represents over 650,000 health professionals advocating for responses to climate change which protect and promote public health. Our vision is a world in which health is improved as climate change is solved. Our members include leading health bodies such as The Royal Colleges of Physicians, GPs and Surgeons, the Royal College of Nursing, the British Medical Association, the British Medical Journal, and The Lancet.
Climate change is the greatest health threat of the 21st century, but action on climate change could bring major cobenefits to health. The Alliance was formed in reaction to these profound threats and opportunities and seeks to drive an accelerated policy response.
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