Global Health Centre

Breathing Life with Clean Air Action: Civil Society Drives Change

International Geneva Global Health Platform
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Hybrid: Auditorium Ivan Pictet, Maison de la Paix, Geneva and online

Geneva Health Week 2023 - WHA 76 side event

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#GenevaHealthWeek 2023: Breathing Life with Clean Air Action: Civil Society Drives Change



The COVID-19 pandemic and the pandemic treaty negotiations have grabbed the stage in recent World Health Assemblies (WHAs). But year after year, air pollution remains one of the biggest killers globally, claiming the lives of seven million people annually. The biggest health burden is in developing cities, including South Asia. In Sub-Saharan Africa, air pollution is now second only to malnutrition as a health risk. Air pollution causes one fourth to one third of deaths from leading NCDs, including heart and chronic respiratory disease, lung cancer, and stroke. The same unsustainable patterns of urban development and fossil fuel use driving air pollution also are the main causes of climate change, deforestation and biodiversity loss - thereby increasing future pandemic risks.

A landmark 2015 WHA Resolution on Air Pollution (A68.8) sought to raise the profile of clean air action in the health sector. However, in many World Health Organization (WHO) member states health actors remain unsure of the role they can really play to address this critical health risk.

This event, which relates to WHA76 debates on “Healthier Populations” (WHO’s 3rd Strategic Pillar) and to the prevention of NCDs, helps link the dots. It illustrates how WHO and UN partners, working together with other global health partners, can support and promote effective civil society action on cleaner air and healthier cities - amplifying the impact of WHA decisions.

The event will zero in on vibrant examples of civil society and youth action in the Global South where the need is greatest, including groups: deploying low-cost, wearable air quality monitors; addressing waste burning at community level and empowering maternal and child health workers to address childhood illness from polluted air.




Introduction by Martina Otto | Head, Climate and Clean Air Coalition Secretariat 

Moderated by Dr Maria Neira | Director of Environment, Climate Change and Health at the World Health Organization (WHO)



The Global Health Centre and the International Geneva Global Health Platform, Health Policy Watch, Clean Air Fund, Climate and Clean Air Coalition of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP)