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WMO, WHO Establish Joint Office for Climate and Health

WMO WHO8 July 2014: The World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) have established a Joint Office for Climate and Health, under the auspices of the Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS), to promote the development and use of climate services to improve public health. The office will increase awareness, build capacity, and connect meteorological services with experts in the health sector to act on climate adaptation and risk management.

The move comes in response to an increasing demand from the health community for improved access to climate and weather products, such as regional climate predictions, hazard warnings and seasonal outlooks, in order to better understand and manage health risks related to weather and climate. Acknowledging that climate change is leading to an increase in extreme events, which impact on human health, WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud stressed the need for a common understanding of the challenges in order to face and overcome them. Flavia Bustreo, WHO Assistant Director-General for Family, Women's and Children's Health, said the most significant impacts of extreme weather events often occur indirectly and slowly, such as under-nutrition due to crop failure, respiratory diseases from poor air quality, and water-borne and vector-borne diseases. She added that preparedness and prevention greatly reduce these health risks.

Stronger collaboration between the two sectors is necessary in order for reliable and user-friendly climate information to improve preparedness for health emergencies and outbreaks of climate-related diseases, such as cholera or dengue fever. In the past, the health community has lacked the ability to access, understand and apply available climate information, and the climate services community has not fully appreciated public health concerns and needs. The joint office aims to bridge that gap.

The office is expected to provide support in the following areas: ensuring that the contribution of meteorological services is reflected in international health policy fora; providing coordination, resource mobilization and technical support to projects and research, including collaboration between health partners and national meteorological departments to ensure better use of weather information and seasonal forecasts to enhance disease preparedness; strengthening coordination and collaborative initiatives between the WHO and WMO; and providing communications and capacity development by developing awareness raising and technical guidance materials. [WMO Press Release]