On January 18, 2023, National Academy of Medicine (NAM) President Victor J. Dzau spoke at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, about the important link between addressing climate change and improving health outcomes. During the panel session, Putting Health at the Heart of Climate Action, speakers delved into the ways that the effects of climate change are having an impact on human health and the roles stakeholders in the health sector—and beyond—can play in addressing these impacts. Panelists shared perspectives related to children’s health, the health care workforce, pharmaceutical industries, and more.

Dzau emphasized that the climate crisis and health are deeply connected: “The main message is to make sure that everybody knows that this is a crisis of public health. It’s also a crisis of equity.” He described how the negative health impacts of climate change are happening right now, with more marginalized and under-resourced communities and countries bearing the greater burden. Given the scale of the crisis, the NAM has declared it to be a Grand Challenge for the broader health community and launched a major strategic initiative to activate the field and promulgate solutions.

The panelists discussed addressing gaps in research to identify interventions, workforce training, decarbonization of the health sector, and more. The panel acknowledged that there are many opportunities for health and other sectors to consider health outcomes when advancing efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change and that a systems approach is needed. Dzau noted that, later this year, as part of its Grand Challenge initiative, the NAM will kick off the development a global roadmap report that will examine how major economic sectors, such as food, transportation, and energy, intersect to influence human health in the context of climate change, and the opportunities to create a more equitable, climate- and health-sustaining economy.

In addition to Dzau, the panel featured Cheryl Moore, Director of Research Programs at the Wellcome Trust; Catherine Russell, Executive Director of United Nations Children’s Fund; Vanessa Kerry, CEO of Seed Global Health; and Paul Hudson, CEO of Sanofi, with opening remarks from Ahmed Ogwell Ouma, Director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, and closing remarks from Shyam Bishen, Head of WEF Health and Healthcare. Kerry is also a 2022 Catalyst Awardee of the NAM’s Healthy Longevity Global Competition, a global movement to extend the human healthspan by accelerating research, innovation, and entrepreneurism in healthy longevity.

View the full session recording.

Recognizing that climate change represents one of the most significant threats to human health, the NAM launched the Grand Challenge on Climate Change, Human Health, and Equity, which includes the Action Collaborative on Decarbonizing the U.S. Health Sector. Learn more about the NAM’s work in this area on our website.

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