Climate Change Impacting Efforts Against NCDs & Mental Health Issues
The efforts of small island developing states (SIDS) to combat non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and mental health issues are being impacted by the effects of climate change.
Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, reiterated this point today, as he addressed the first day of the SIDS Ministerial Conference on NCDs and Mental Health, at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.
Dr. Ghebreyesus said SIDS “have long been a global leader in NCDs and mental health”. He added that the challenges facing SIDS in the areas of NCDs and mental health were pressing, with premature mortality and threats to livelihoods and wellbeing.
Mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety, which were already highly prevalent in SIDS, continue to rise, he stated.
“All of these are exacerbated by the climate crisis, which is an existential threat to health and development in SIDS. SIDS represent one per cent of the world’s population and economy, and emit less than one per cent of greenhouse gases, and yet they are disproportionately and severely affected by climate change and natural disasters.
“We cannot afford to ignore the crippling impact of these colliding threats. It is our moral imperative to act swiftly and decisively, to forge a path forward based on equity, resilience, and sustainability,” he stressed.
The WHO Director-General said countries must strengthen health systems, enhance promotion, prevention and early detection measures, and prioritise the integration of NCDs and mental health services into primary health care.
In addition, he suggested that countries should make use of WHO’s “best buys”, a set of cost-effective interventions to prevent and manage NCDs.
He also proffered that action must be taken to overhaul financing to unlock billions in investment for climate action, good health and wellbeing, while making it less punishing for developing countries to pay their debts.
Dr. Ghebreyesus shared some of the initiatives SIDS have committed to implementing over the next few years, in the fight against NCDs and mental health issues. They include St. Vincent and the Grenadines adopting evidence-based guidelines for the management of hypertension, and Montserrat implementing a strategy for mental health to reduce stigma and discrimination, and increase access to mental health services
The Director-General thanked the officials from SIDS involved in addressing the threats being faced by NCDs and mental health issues, and gave the commitment that the “WHO is and will remain your steadfast partner”.
The WHO, Pan American Health Organization, and the Government of Barbados are hosting the high-level meeting to help shape effective and equitable policies to address the pressing health challenges faced by island states. The conference is expected to be a catalyst for transformative action to protect the people, communities and economies of SIDS.