It should not only be ministries of health that care for health. Ministries of environment need to work with ministries of health to develop and implement actionable science. And the health sector needs to become a bigger player to influence air quality and air pollution measures. Sources of pollution, such as diesel fuel, domestic cooking and heating stoves and fuels cookstoves and household fuels, the oil and gas production sector and other areas, need to be addressed. Together with WHO and Norway, who are active partners in the Climate and Clean Air Coalition and leading a CCAC Health Task Force, we are about to launch an awareness-raising campaign on health and air pollution, with a special focus on short-lived climate pollutants and measures with multiple benefits to health, climate and ecosystems, seeking practical ways to turn science into policy. Health ministries need to be in the forefront on the issue of health and air pollution.
Air pollution is a major health issue and risk factor for non-communicable diseases, such as stroke, heart disease, respiratory illnesses and cancers. Children and women are particularly at risk from indoor air pollution, while children, the elderly and poor populations may be more at risk from outdoor air pollution. WHO and member states need to respond accordingly. Implementation of policies aimed at reducing emissions at the national and local/urban level is key. Half of the urban population is exposed to air pollution at least 2.5 times higher than WHO recommended levels. Short-lived climate pollutants, such as black carbon or soot, tropospheric ozone and its precursor, methane, not only impact health but are also powerful climate forcers affecting on global warming. Taking appropriate measures can slow global warming by up to 0.5°C between 2010 and 2050, and hence help to stay within the global warming target of 2°C in the near-term. Due to the enormous health impacts of air pollution, the health sector should become a driving force for air pollution reductions, including convening and informing stakeholders about health risks, and informing about strategies that optimize pollution reductions with maximal health benefits. And it is important that WHO as the health cluster leader also become an effective leader in mobilizing support for the global effort to tackle air pollution.