, Volume 84, Issue 1 Supplement, pp 109-117,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Climate Change and Developing-Country Cities: Implications For Environmental Health and Equity

Abstract

Climate change is an emerging threat to global public health. It is also highly inequitable, as the greatest risks are to the poorest populations, who have contributed least to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The rapid economic development and the concurrent urbanization of poorer countries mean that developing-country cities will be both vulnerable to health hazards from climate change and, simultaneously, an increasing contributor to the problem. We review the specific health vulnerabilities of urban populations in developing countries and highlight the range of large direct health effects of energy policies that are concentrated in urban areas. Common vulnerability factors include coastal location, exposure to the urban heat-island effect, high levels of outdoor and indoor air pollution, high population density, and poor sanitation. There are clear opportunities for simultaneously improving health and cutting GHG emissions most obviously through policies related to transport systems, urban planning, building regulations and household energy supply. These influence some of the largest current global health burdens, including approximately 800,000 annual deaths from ambient urban air pollution, 1.2 million from road-traffic accidents, 1.9 million from physical inactivity, and 1.5 million per year from indoor air pollution. GHG emissions and health protection in developing-country cities are likely to become increasingly prominent in policy development. There is a need for a more active input from the health sector to ensure that development and health policies contribute to a preventive approach to local and global environmental sustainability, urban population health, and health equity.

Campbell-Lendrum and Corvalán are with the Department of Public Health and Environment, World Health Organization, Geneva 27, Switzerland.