Health and climate change: climate justice essential for global health

16 Dec 2022

In our latest blog post, Chris Zielinski, Visiting Fellow to the Centre for Global Health in the Faculty of Health and Wellbeing, describes a recent initiative to highlight the impact of climate change on health across the African continent and the world.

Working with the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change, Chris (who is also the President-elect of the World Association of Medical Editors), had the task of getting as many biomedical journals as possible to publish the same editorial. Since he was the corresponding author, among the side-effects of the project is that the University of Winchester has been referenced in over 250 journals around the world - and Chris's own publications list has swollen dramatically. Here, he provides a brief description of the project.

Africa has suffered disproportionately from the climate crisis, although it has done little to cause the crisis. The climate crisis has had an impact on the environmental and social determinants of health across Africa, leading to devastating health effects.

Ahead of COP 27, the UN conference on climate change held in Egypt in November, 16 leading African journal editors wrote an editorial on health and climate change. The editorial called for: 'urgent action to ensure it is the COP that finally delivers climate justice for Africa and vulnerable countries. This is essential not just for the health of those countries, but also for the health of the whole world'.

It strongly made the point that: 'wealthy nations must step up support for Africa and vulnerable countries in addressing past, present, and future impacts of climate change'. Africa is likely to suffer the worst effects of climate change, despite having done the least to cause them.

The project has been a complete success in terms of the numbers participating: in the end, 269 journals published the editorial, including more than 50 from the African continent, as well as the British Medical Journal, Lancet, Journal of the American Medical Association, New England Journal of Medicine, and many more top international journals.

This was, as we hoped, an unprecedented act of public speech, demonstrating with undeniable clarity that the health sector shared the concern and active resolve to respond effectively to climate change.

Our initiative was picked up by the global media: over 130 news stories were published about the project, in dozens of countries. The estimated potential reach of the news stories already published is an audience of over 800 million people, which is very heartening.
The Facebook engagement and Twitter shares were strong, with a measured engagement of 1.7k and a potential reach of almost 300 million. We are advised that this translates into an advertising value of almost $8 million. As such, the return on investment of the exercise is astronomical.

Among the follow-ups are likely to be a revival of editors' networks in Africa, a publication on the impacts of climate change on various parts of the health sector, and a similar initiative linked to biodiversity.

Read the editorial here.

The participating journals are listed here.

UK Health Alliance on Climate Change

Find out more about the University of Winchester Centre for Global Health here

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