Doctors' Leader Criticises Governments for Paying Poor Attention to Heath in Climate Change Debate

(16.10.2009) New Delhi: Governments of the world have been criticised by the new President of the World Medical Association for paying too little attention to the effects of climate change on population health and its huge impact on health services.

Dr. Dana Hanson, former President of the Canadian Medical Association, in his inaugural speech at the WMA’s annual General Assembly in New Delhi, India, said:‘We know that the climate affects local and national food supplies, air and water quality, weather, economics and many other critical health determinants. Climate change represents an inevitable, massive threat to global health that will likely eclipse the major known pandemics as the leading cause of death and disease in the 21st century. Yet why do we hear so little or no discussion by our governments of the effects of climate change on population health and its huge impact on health services?’Dr. Hanson, a dermatologist from Fredericton, New Brunswick, who took over today as President of the WMA for 2009/10, said that the WMA was now faced with how to bring its resources of medical knowledge to the table in Copenhagen in December when 192 United Nations member states meet to create a plan of action around the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

‘It is my hope that we will be granted oberver status in Copenhagen and will have the opportunity to articulate our policy to the meeting. The health of the world population must be elevated in this discussion from an afterthought to a central theme around which decision-makers construct rational, well informed action-orientated climate change strategies.

‘There is no other organisation that can bring the message of human health protection and preservation – untainted by national political and economic agendas – to the climate change debate. There is no other organisation whose members view each and every citizen as a cherished patient to whom we owe a professional duty and feel a personal commitment.’

The WMA has applied for observer status with the United Nations Framwork Convention on Climate Change as the only global body representing all physicians, but has yet to receive a reply.