Putting health at the heart of sustainable development
Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development
(20-22 June 2012)
The Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development has begun in Brazil. Health was a cornerstone of the first RIO conference in 1992, and health needs to be at the heart of Rio+20 and the follow-up. Health was a cornerstone of the first RIO conference in 1992, and health needs to be at the heart of Rio+20 and the follow-up.
"Green economy" is a key Rio+20 theme. WHO's Health in Green Economy series is systematically exploring how health can benefit from greener development. For instance:
• healthy cities with green spaces,
• clean transit and walking/cycling schemes can reduce deaths and illnesses from air pollution and increase physical activity, thereby reducing many non-communicable diseases,
• clean home energy, particularly for the millions that rely on leaky, inefficient biomass and coal stoves, could halve childhood pneumonia and save more than a million lives, annually, from chronic obstructive respiratory disease, particularly among poor woman,
• energy-efficient and weathertight housing can protect people from heat and cold waves and "fuel poverty" due to soaring fossil fuel costs,
• access to healthier foods can reduce undernutrition and obesity,
• access to climate resilient,
• safe drinking water can reduce waterborne diseases.
And health services can reap major gains from improving energy and environmental performance. Health centres and hospitals with clean, self-sufficient energy and water sources can often be more resilient in emergencies, and also provide better access to vital, lifesaving procedures in off-grid or low-income regions that frequently suffer from power outages. Better management of healthcare environments and waste can avert disease among workers, patients and communities. All in all, greening offers multiple avenues for improving health, reducing environmental risks to health, and supporting the fight against non-communicable diseases as well as many diseases of poverty.
As Principle 1 of the 1992 Rio Declaration stated, "human beings [are] the central concern of sustainable development"...." living a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature." Better health has to be seen as an indicator of what sustainable development can and should achieve. UN member states and other stakeholder groups are discussing exactly how to address these themes in the draft conference text, The Future We Want. From now until June, a series of regional and international consultations and negotiations will finalize this "zero draft". Read more about Rio+20 process and health sector inputs.