WHO Gets Special Envoy For Climate Change, Health

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Dr. Vanessa Kerry.
Dr. Vanessa Kerry.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has announced the appointment of Dr. Vanessa Kerry as its first-ever director-general special envoy for climate change and health.

Kerry, CEO of Seed Global Health and a renowned global health expert and medical doctor will play a crucial role in amplifying WHO’s messaging on climate change and health and engage in high-level advocacy.

The director-general of WHO, Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus expressed delight in having Kerry join as the special envoy for climate change and health. He highlighted her extensive experience and dedication to public health, emphasizing her invaluable contribution to addressing the health implications of climate change. Together, they aim to work towards a sustainable and resilient future for all.

Climate change is emerging as the greatest health challenge of the 21st century, affecting various aspects of human well-being. Extreme weather events, the prevalence of non-communicable and infectious diseases, as well as the capacity of health infrastructure and workforce, are all significantly impacted.

In her role as the director-general special envoy for climate change and health, Kerry will utilise her expertise and leadership to support WHO in fulfilling its mission. Her key responsibilities will include:

Amplifying WHO’s climate and health messaging. Kerry will disseminate crucial messages from WHO, targeting the general public, influential figures and policymakers. Her aim is to foster a wider understanding and a sense of urgency regarding the significance of climate change and its impact on health.

High-level advocacy for global impact: Supporting WHO’s work, Kerry will engage with global and regional organisations and national governments, and follow WHO’s expert guidance to foster the adoption and adaptation of recommendations. This will be done while considering the unique circumstances of local, national and regional contexts.

Providing strategic advice. Kerry will offer strategic advice to the director-general and decision-makers, enhancing WHO’s position as a trusted and authoritative source of information and support. This alignment with WHO’s own guidance will further strengthen their impact.

Mobilising resources. Kerry will play a role in mobilizing resources to advance WHO’s work. She will seek out new partners, influential figures and prominent personalities who can lend their expertise and resources to amplify WHO’s initiatives.

Expressing her gratitude for the appointment, Kerry stated, “I am honoured to serve as the WHO director-general special envoy for climate change and health. The climate crisis is a health crisis, posing a fundamental threat to global health that requires urgent action for mitigation and adaptation. Climate change is already causing havoc worldwide, from cholera outbreaks in Malawi to heat-related illnesses in India. It is essential to invest in robust health systems that are resilient against these impacts. I will collaborate with WHO and its partners to raise awareness, develop solutions and build consensus for action, aiming for a healthier future for everyone on this planet.”

This year marks a critical moment for the intersection of climate change and health, as the COP28 presidency announced the first-ever day dedicated to health at the summit on December 3, 2023. This presents a significant opportunity to emphasize the profound importance of addressing climate change in relation to human health. By placing health at the forefront of climate discussions, collaboration and coordinated efforts can be strengthened to safeguard the well-being of present and future generations.

Kerry’s appointment as the WHO director-general special envoy for climate change and health underscores WHO’s commitment to prioritising climate change and its impact on global health. Through her leadership, Kerry will contribute to shaping policies, fostering collaborations, and driving transformative action to protect and promote the health of populations in the face of climate challenges.

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