The WHO Global conference took place in the Moravian and Silesian Region

The Regional Office for Europe of the World Health Organisation (WHO, Europe), the Economic Commission for Europe of the United Nations (UNECE), and the United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment) call on all European leaders to increase activities to prevent death and disease caused by environmental impact.

Each year, approximately 1.4 million European residents die prematurely for reasons associated with a polluted environment. This is at least 15% of all deaths in Europe. Approximately one half of these deaths relate to pollution in the external or internal environment. In total, citizens lose 50 million years of healthy life each year due to risks associated with the environment.

“In an era of sustainable development, we can prevent 1.4 million deaths related to the environment and benefit public health by making political decisions across the entire governmental sector,Zsuzsanna Jakab, said Regional Director for WHO Europe. “We urge all European leaders to use this opportunity to deliver more sustainable policy addressing the health challenges of the 21st century.

This challenge comes from the opening of the Sixth Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health in Ostrava. From 13th to 15th June 2017, more than 450 representatives from 53 countries of the European WHO region will meet with international and non-governmental organisations to sign a declaration binding them to prioritise activities focused on environmental risks to human health by 2018.

Environmental risk factors are responsible for approximately 26% of ischemic heart diseases, 25% of strokes, and 17% of cancer cases in Europe. Deaths from cardiovascular causes and illnesses associated with environmental exposure are three times more common in countries with lower income than in countries with high income.

“Improving the health of our population is crucial for the Moravian and Silesian Region, since the industrial heritage of our region comes with an impact on public health. We will not limit our investments to improving the environment. We will also establish a network of high-quality medical facilities, including equipment purchases. And finally, but importantly, we will support education for children in health issues,” said Ivo Vondrák, Governor of the Moravian and Silesian Region.

Air pollution is the most frequent environmental cause of death in Europe, accounting for 620 000 deaths each year due to external (transport, industry, power engineering) or internal exposure (burning solid fuel for heating and cooking, poor ventilation, passive smoking).

Additional environmental factors, such as chemical pollution, noise, occupational risks, polluted water, poor hygiene, and injury, cause many more deaths and diseases. Diarrhoea diseases caused by poor-quality drinking water, toilets, or poor hygiene have led to 14 deaths per day – this is an unacceptable reality in Europe of the 21st century. 85 000 people die each year in car crashes.

Financial obstacles, inequality, extreme weather caused by climate change, increased occurrence of non-infectious diseases, ageing population, rapid urbanisation, and an unprecedented wave of migration deteriorate the environmental impact on the health of European residents.

In 2015, most of the world’s population lived in cities for the first time in human history. By 2030, 8 out of 10 Europeans will live in cities and will be exposed to numerous environmental risks. The most vulnerable groups – children, people living in poverty, excluded groups, migrants – are affected disproportionately.

“As cities play a crucial role in implementing the sustainable development programme of the United Nations 2030 Agenda, measures must focus on these aspects with the aim of improving our health and mental wellbeing,” said Srdan Matic, Coordinator for the environment and health for WHO Europe. “Identifying the contribution of cities as one of the priorities at this ministerial conference is a milestone and WHO undertakes to support all European countries in their effort to prioritise measures for improved health, wellbeing, and the environment.”

The WHO Healthy European Cities Network and the Healthy Regions Network are strategic platforms for operating at a local level. They provide opportunities for strengthening the joint approach and integrate the environmental, social, economic, and political dimensions for improved health and wellbeing for all.

The Ministerial Conference on the Environment and Health held in Ostrava is the sixth conference organised as part of the process launched almost 30 years ago aiming to eliminate the greatest environmental threats to human health. The conference is organised by WHO Europe in partnership with UNECE and UN Environment, and hosted by the government of the Czech Republic. The participants will once more define Europe’s approach to the opportunities and challenges of the 21th century. European countries are expected to develop their national portfolios for environmental and health measures by 2018. The portfolios will be based on the priorities selected from the seven topics highlighted at the conference: air quality, chemical safety, healthcare systems sustainable from an environmental point of view, waste management, water, hygiene, and cities.

The WHO European Centre for Environment and Health in Bonn, Germany, is a centre of excellent practices in this process: it provides evidence that strengthens their position, works with countries to implement their commitments, and monitors progress towards objectives.

This conference is a breaking point marking the first event in the era of the new sustainable development programme 2030. From this perspective, the conference provides a framework for the commitment of European leaders to promote environmental and health measures and achieve sustainable development objectives while also supporting the objectives of Health 2020, the WHO’s European policy for health and wellbeing to create a supportive environment and resilient communities.

This page is also available in Czech / Tato stránka je k dispozici také v češtině

The Most Read

Moravian-Silesian Region

Office hours for the public:

Mo, We:8:00 AM–5:00 PM Tu, Th:8:00 AM–2:30 PM Fr:8:00 AM–1:00 PM