According to the World Health Organization (WHO), avoidable environmental causes result in over 13 million deaths each year.
The key word here being avoidable.
No one in their right mind deliberately sets out to create an environment where clean air, water and food are not readily available; or a world in which economies are not focused on health and well-being; or where cities are uninhabitable, and people have no control over their health, or that of our planet. Sadly, as the bumper sticker immortalised in Forest Gump proclaims (when you watch the edited version on a plane) “..it happens!”
But, if the COVID pandemic has taught us anything at all, it is science’s healing power. Not only that, but it delivers the bedrock on which improvements in global health are built, by fuelling innovation, triggering “Eureka!” moments, informing policy-making, reducing hurdles and ultimately advancing better, healthier lives for all people. Science is, after all, knowledge.
So this United Nations World Health Day, instead of being overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problems facing us, let’s think about our planet and our health. And let’s join WHO in urging governments and the public to share stories of steps they are taking to protect the planet and their health, and prioritize well-being societies.
Because, as the French chemist and microbiologist, Louis Pasteur famously said: “… knowledge belongs to humanity, and is the torch which illuminates the world.”