Pledges made to tackle impact of air pollution on health at landmark WHO conference

8 November, 2018

The First World Health Organization (WHO) Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health took place in Geneva last week (30 October–1 November, 2018) – and the European Respiratory Society (ERS) and the European Lung Foundation (ELF) were there to participate on behalf of respiratory professionals and patients.

Time to act

The landmark conference brought together politicians, scientific experts and activists from around the world with the aim of finding solutions. The key message of the event was that it is time to act on air pollution to protect health. Dr Maria Neira, WHO’s Director of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health stated: “We call air pollution the invisible killer, but its impact on noncommunicable diseases is impossible to ignore. 10 years from now, we cannot say we did not know.”

As part of the ongoing activity of the Healthy Lungs for Life campaign, representatives of ERS and ELF spoke at the event.

ELF Chair, Isabel Saraiva took part in a panel discussion on how the health sector can take a lead in the prevention of pollution-related diseases.

Chair of the ERS Environment and Health Committee, Professor Barbara Hoffmann delivered a talk on the evidence of the impact of air pollution on non-communicable diseases, even at low-level concentrations.

Several current and former members of the Committee – including Professor Francesco Forastiere, Professor Bert Brunekreef, Professor Isabella Annesi-Maesano and Professor Nino Künzli – also took part in the conference, helping to ensure that it was founded on the latest scientific evidence.

Making pledges for action

The final day of the conference was the ‘high level’ day, with many political leaders – including health and environment ministers and mayors – from around the world taking part.

At the closing session of the event, participants were encouraged to publicly announce their commitments to tackling air pollution. Pledges were made by representatives from different countries and regions, as well as international organisations.

ERS and ELF, participated in this session to make a commitment on behalf of 28 medical societies and patient organisations by taking active steps to reduce the harm caused by air pollution through awareness and education measures. The measures focus on the inclusion of air quality evidence in clinical guidelines, education and research and steps that can be taken to improve awareness and knowledge among patient populations.

Taking this forward with Healthy Lungs for Life

The talks by the ERS and ELF leaders are just some of the activities planned as part of the year-long Healthy Lungs for Life campaign, targeting policymakers, healthcare professionals, patients and the wider community. The campaign aims to raise awareness of the importance of breathing clean air and the actions that everyone can take to protect their lungs from pollution. The campaign belongs to members of the respiratory community everywhere – hold your own event and help us spread these powerful messages worldwide.