New Delhi:The ministry of health and family welfare has proposed a “National Action Plan on Climate Change and Human Health", a policy aimed at protecting people against climate sensitive illnesses such as cardio-respiratory diseases, cancers and allergies. The plan, with a special focus on protecting women, children and marginalised sections of society, is expected to be launched in the next few months.

“The National Health Mission aims to reduce climate sensitive illnesses through integration with other missions under National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) as well as through programmes run by various ministries. The Health Ministry has chalked out its own National Action Plan for Climate Change and Human Health (NAPCCHH). We are convening meetings with the States to draft State wise plans," said Dr Jagdish Prasad, Director General of Health Services (DGHS), Union health ministry.

Research studies across the world have shown that climate change may negatively affect human health in a number of ways such as increased frequency and intensity of heat waves. Rise in heat-related illnesses and deaths, increased precipitation, floods and droughts are costing lives directly.

Climate change also affects social and environmental determinants of health such as clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food and secure shelter.

Health experts say that high temperature is known to increase the level of “ground level ozone" and other “climate altering pollutants" other than carbon dioxide which further exacerbate cardio-respiratory and allergic diseases and certain cancers. Besides, there is increase in transmission and spread of infectious diseases due to changes in the distribution of water-borne, food-borne and vector-borne diseases.

The Union health ministry will soon perform a situational analysis to strengthen preparedness and response at the national, state, district and below-district levels to cope with adverse health impacts of disasters. There is a plan to develop monitoring and surveillance systems for climate sensitive diseases along with conducting surveys among the vulnerable population.

“With a goal to reduce morbidity, mortality, injuries and health vulnerability to climate variability and extreme weathers, we plan to establish an environmental cell in the Health department at State and District Level. Also, we will create mechanism for data capture, collation, analysis and interpretation," said Dr Prasad.

The monitoring and evaluation of the implementation of NAPCCH has been stipulated with a mix of internal and external approaches. Union health ministry, state department of health, district health officers and individual health facilities will be involved in regular internal monitoring. External monitoring will be done by an independent agency.

“Health programmes should become climate-resilient through assessment, programming and implementation, which considers climate risks and vulnerability and should be redesigned and implemented taking into account both current climate variability and projected future climate change. For this, we will involve intervention by ‘Public Health Department’ and other non-health departments," said Dr Prasad.

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