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News Last Updated: Dec 29, 2021 - 2:00:34 AM

Bahamas Health System to adapt to climate change
By Felicity Darville
Dec 28, 2021 - 6:19:11 AM

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When we think of climate change, the  resilience  of our health  system and its  facilities may not be the first thing that comes to mind. However, it is one of the most critical aspects of ensuring that The Bahamas is able to adapt to the inevitable changes that climate change will bring. The health sector has an opportunity to be a leader in the push for adaptation to climate change, according to Brittney Jones, Pan American Health Organization/ World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) Bahamas, Turks and Caicos Health and Climate Change  and  Health Focal  Point Consultant.

The PAHO /WHO Country  Office   is  working towards ensuring that The Bahamas has the tools  and technical guidance  it needs to  support  adaptation s  to its health  system,  and services for the benefit of its residents.

Climate change is  one of  the biggest global health threat s  of the 21st century, according to PAHO /WHO . Health care facilities need to be safe and remain operational during and  immediately  after disasters. Current lessons from Hurricane Dorian are poignant reminders of the dire need for health facilities  that  are prepared for climate change.

“The health sector has an opportunity to be a leader in the charge of climate action by strengthening plans and  implementati ng  of prevention and adaptation strategies,” Jones said.

“Climate change intensifies some existing  health  threats and is therefore an urgent public health concern.”

PAHO /WHO ’s Climate Change and Health Program notes that the health sector will continue to be affected by the changing climate through direct impacts, including heat waves, droughts, heavy storms, and sea-level rise. The Bahamas is one of the most vulnerable countries to sea-level rise. Analyst T. Oneil Johnson Jr.  warns that  T he Bahamas is at risk of losing 80 percent of its landmass in the next eight decades  with  the current pace of global warming.   There are also indirect impacts to the health sector, including vector-borne and respiratory diseases, food and water insecurity, undernutrition, and forced displacements.

Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis pointed to the vulnerability of The Bahamas when he addressed COP 26 (the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference)  a few  weeks ago: “We in The Bahamas will do what we can, but the limits of what our nation’s effort can accomplish are stark: we cannot out-run your carbon emissions, we cannot out-run the hurricanes which are growing more powerful and we cannot out-run rising sea levels, as our islands disappear beneath the seas.

Jones points out that coming out of COP 26, The Bahamas has made a formal commitment to building climate resistant health systems.

PAHO WHO 's Climate Change and Health Program  is supporting the health sector and other sectors  to prepare health systems through early warning  systems , better planning and the implementation of prevention and adaptation measures,  and  also by reducing the emissions of gases that cause climate change .  

“Although small island developing states like The Bahamas contribute minimally to the global issue of climate change, we are not exempt from our responsibilities to evaluate our carbon emissions and take adaptive and mitigative action,” she said.

“PAHO/WHO is committed to continued partnership with the country to strengthening its capacity to prepare for, prevent, respond to, and recover from the health-related climate impacts.”

PAHO /WHO  has established the Agenda for the Americas on Health, Environment, and Climate Change 2021–2030. The Agenda is a call to action to the health sector to lead the charge to address  environmental determinants of health in the Americas.  PAHO/WHO  will work with Member States like The Bahamas to achieve its goal and objective to ensure healthy lives. It also seeks to promote well-being for all at all ages using a sustainable and equitable approach that places a priority on reducing health inequity. The Agenda has been developed under the umbrella of the WHO Global Strategy on Health, Environment, and Climate Change, and builds upon the commitments set forth in the Sustainable Health Agenda for the Americas 2018–2030, as well as the PAHO Strategic Plan 2020–2025.

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