Story at a glance
- A diverse body of medical organizations penned and signed a letter to G20 world leaders.
- The health care groups make the case for a sustainable economic recovery following pandemic relief.
An international collection of medical and health professionals penned a letter to world leaders on Tuesday asking for an environmentally sustainable recovery in the aftermath of the coronavirus, including better air pollution regulation and greater economic equality.
The letter was addressed to various global leaders, including U.S. President Trump, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
It contains 376 distinct signatures from medical associations and organizations, with three being the British Medical Association, the American Public Health Association and Doctors for America.
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The letter says that collectively, it represents more than 40 million health professionals across 90 different countries.
The health care signatories have named the plan for a more environmentally friendly global reopening #HealthyRecovery and want to mitigate future disasters through public health and environmental safeguards.
“A truly healthy recovery will not allow pollution to continue to cloud the air we breathe and the water we drink. It will not permit unabated climate change and deforestation, potentially unleashing new health threats upon vulnerable populations,” the letter reads.
For the letter’s signatories, a healthy recovery consists of reducing fossil fuel emissions and curbing deforestation, as well as sustaining workers with livable wages in safe conditions. These changes, compounded with new infrastructure to support public transportation, will pave the way to a healthier and more resilient global population — one less susceptible to new health threats like the coronavirus, according to the signatories.
Recent studies have suggested that air pollution can exacerbate coronavirus infection by further compromising the human respiratory system. One study found that a 1 cubic meter increase in fine particulate matter, or PM, is associated with an 8 percent increase in COVID-19 deaths.
The medical organizations also note that other health problems, such as premature births, heart disease and lung cancer are also linked to air pollution. These health problems then, in turn, strain countries’ health care systems.
The signing medical professionals also say that shifting to a more renewable economy will generate global GDP gains of about 100 trillion U.S. dollars over the next 30 years, citing a press release from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IREA).
As many countries work to pass relief legislation to keep economies relatively strong through mass shutdowns, the various medical associations see this as the optimal time to implement structural, environmentally-friendly reforms for the post-pandemic future.
“As you direct your attention to the post-COVID response, we ask that your chief medical officer and chief scientific advisor are directly involved in the production of all economic stimulus packages, report on the short- and long-term public health repercussions that these may have, and give their stamp of approval,” the letter concludes.
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