Monday isn’t usually the best day for an event; particularly one that is hoped will receive media exposure and host a large and engaged attendance.
However, Monday 29 October was the day chosen to launch the UK Health Alliance all-member report on air pollution: chosen because it was the day before the beginning of the first World Health Organisation Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health.
A launch just before, it was hoped, might mean the event – and the report it was launching – wouldn’t be eclipsed by proceedings taking place in Geneva.
The venue was Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children (GOSH), and our hosts must have been as delighted as we were to see every seat in the Lagoon Café occupied by an excited audience.
The audience comprised healthcare professionals, sustainability champions, journalists, eco-warriors and the public, including Rosamund Kissi-Debrah – mother of Ella Roberta Kissi-Debrah who sadly passed away aged 9 died due to a severe asthma attack and seizure, and who is currently the focus of a legal battle to attribute her death to the filthy air she was forced to breathe every day of her short life.
Nick Martin, Head of Sustainability & Environmental Management at GOSH spoke first, explaining the Clean Air Hospital Framework, the creation of which is led by GOSH with environmental charity Global Action Plan (GAP). Nick was followed by the report’s author UKHACC’s Antonia Jennings who gave a presentation highlighting the key points and recommendations of the report.
A lively panel discussion ensued involving panellists Baroness Bryony Worthington, BMJ Editor in Chief Dr Fiona Godlee and the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Dr Lisa Page.
Audience participation didn’t need to be invited. Far from being just the compere, UKHACC Director Laurie Laybourn-Langton found himself needing to ‘chair’ the morning, so keen were the attendees to contribute to the conversation.
Praise for the report was high and came from many corners. So too did stories and experiences, lessons learned from other campaigns, and suggested ways of continuation with this work.
Panellists brought their experience and expertise to bear, with Baroness Worthington clearly and proficiently managing the expectations of all, while simultaneously offering guidance as to how to mould those who could provide political leverage.
If any single criticism could be levied, it would be that the venue was just a little chilly and the whole morning was over too soon.
Despite the less than temperate – but otherwise charming – environment though, guests remained behind afterwards chatting and mingling, and nobody could accuse UKHACC or GOSH of wasting fuel for heating and adding to climate change and air pollution as a result.
“We were glad to host the launch of this important report by UKHACC and welcome the array of passionate guests who attended.
“Air pollution is a major health problem and children are especially vulnerable to its affects. GOSH is determined to be part of the solution by minimising our own impacts, educating staff and patients and advocating for change across the health sector and beyond.
“To achieve this, we are collaborating with GAP to create and implement the ‘clean air hospital framework’ that we will share widely in due course.”
Read the report here