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Sustaining Health: Linking environment, nutrition and health

18 Sep, 2014

The Wellcome Trust is increasingly aware of the links between environment, nutrition and health. To help examine the role of science and technology on climate and health, and discuss potential levers for change, the Wellcome Trust is co-hosting an event to coincide with the UN Climate Summit in New York. Saskia Heijnen of the Trust’s Sustaining Health team explains why this is important…

N0024246 Bangladeshi women. Harvesting crops.

Health has not traditionally been the first thing that comes to mind when the topic of climate change is raised, but connections are now being made. For example, the latest IPCC report, which provides a synthesis of the scientific and technical evidence of climate change, now places a greater focus on potential health impacts. This is important because health can be impacted in a variety of ways. Examples include extreme weather events such as heat waves and flooding, the spread of climate-sensitive vector-borne diseases, and of course climatic impact on water supply and agricultural production.

Shifting weather patterns and water scarcity are already an issue in many parts of the world as discussed at World Water Week earlier this month. And research has shown that increased carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere can decrease the nutritional content of our major food crops. With a growing population in a changing world, we need to investigate ways of addressing these issues if we want to safeguard human health for generations to come.


The good news is that momentum is building – the first ever WHO Conference on Health and Climate took place at the end of August, and next week there is a UN Climate Summit that coincides with New York Climate Week and has health on its agenda – but there is still more to be done.

The buzzwords in the field are “nexus” – a series of connections, frequently used in the context of relationships between water, energy and food – and “resilience”, adapting to better prepare for the heat, weather extremes, food insecurity and spread of infectious diseases. We, and others, believe that more connections need to be made between sectors and organisations to identify levers for change, and we hope that our Sustaining Health initiative will help in this.

The Wellcome Trust’s Sustaining Health initiative will continue to fund research to develop and promote climate-smart strategies and improve surveillance and control of climate sensitive infectious diseases such as cholera, malaria and dengue. We also want to help to bring disparate disciplines together to discuss potential solutions and look at the issues holistically.

Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 15.05.18On Monday 22nd September, the first day of New York Climate Week, we are co-hosting an event to coincide with the UN Climate Summit. This interactive expert discussion will explore the issues that link environment, nutrition and health with colleagues at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, the International Research Institute for Climate and Society, and the think-tank Meteos. We aim to help drive discussions on the future of climate and health and explore how collaborations can make a real impact.

We will be there to listen and we’ll be using the outcome of the discussion to help shape the Wellcome Trust’s approach to Sustaining Health. It’s an area that can’t be ignored.

The Wellcome Trust’s Sustaining Health: Linking Environment, Nutrition and Health is taking place at 2:30pm-6:00pm in New York (7:30pm-11:00pm BST). We will be live tweeting from the event from the @WellcomeLive account using the hashtag #SustHealth. Please do get involved with the discussion online using the hashtag, or by sharing your thoughts below. You can find out more about our Sustaining Health initiative on our website.

Image credits:  N. Durrell McKenna, Wellcome Images, United Nations Photo CC-BY-NC-ND on Flickr, Climate Week NYC

One Comment leave one →
  1. 22 Jun, 2015 1:28 pm

    The climatic changes determines the crops to grow in certain places/region. The food grown determine the diet people in that region will take.Nutrients in the food gauge the nutrition which is major consideration in health status of the people.

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