Environmental health risks especially affect women and children

Last Modified Sunday, 25 February 2018 (16:59 IST)
Kolkata: risks especially affect women and children, because they are more vulnerable socially and because exposures to environmental contaminants create greater risks for children’s developing bodies and cognitive functions. 

According to the 2016 (WHO) estimates, modifiable environmental risk factors cause about 1.7 million deaths in children younger than five years and 12.6 million total deaths every year.

Although the Global strategy for women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health (2016–2030)2 was launched during the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit 2015, governments rarely recognize the sustainable development agenda as a transformative factor for health. 

The sustainable development goals (SDGs) offer opportunities for countries to create healthier environments for women, children and adolescents.

Since women and children are especially affected by the environment, intersectoral interventions that reduce environmental risks will improve early childhood survival as well as reducing risks of premature death throughout the life-course.

For instance, household air pollution from dirty fuels and inefficient cookstove technologies was estimated to have caused around 4 million premature deaths in 2012 and was responsible for more than half of deaths due to childhood pneumonia.

Among women, indoor exposures to household cookstove were estimated to cause 34 per cent of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease deaths, 21 per cent of stroke deaths, 19 per cent of lung cancer deaths and 14 per cent of ischaemic heart disease deaths in 2012.

Improving access to reliable electricity and clean water in health-care facilities can also help reduce maternal and newborn mortality, as such infrastructure is a critical determinant of quality of care. 

A review of health-care facilities in 11 sub-Saharan African countries showed that an average of 26 per cent of facilities had no electricity whatsoever. 

Another review of 54 low- and middle-income countries found that 38 per cent of health facilities lack a clean drinking water source. Ensuring that health-care facilities have access to power and water is a minimum requirement for attracting women to facilities and guaranteeing quality services for safe childbirth. (UNI)
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