Human health is profoundly affected by weather and climate, and despite considerable progress in health services delivery and reforms over the last few years, a mixture of environmental health challenges is emerging as a threat to healthcare services in Punjab. Deaths from extreme weather events such as heat stress, along with cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, infectious disease outbreaks, and malnutrition are on the rise. On top of that, Punjab is experiencing a population boom and consequently, the burden of disease on limited healthcare resources is reaching critical levels.
This was observed by speakers in a function organized by the Project Management Unit-Punjab Public Health Agency (PMU-PPHA), Primary and Secondary Healthcare Department Punjab, held to mark ‘World Environmental Health Day 2017.’
Begum Zakia Shahnawaz Khan, Provincial Minister for Environment Protection, Punjab Minister for Primary and Secondary Healthcare, Khawaja Imran Nazir and Provincial Minister Specialized Healthcare and Medical Education, Khawaja Salman Rafique addressed. Also present at the occasion were Member Health Planning and Development Department, Dr. Shabana Haider, and Captain (R) Saif Anjum, Secretary Environment Protection Department.
A meeting of the technical working group was held to solidify long-term action plans for various policies including Punjab Environmental Health Strategy, Punjab Drinking Water Policy and other associated agendas.
The speakers maintained that effects of climate change aren’t limited to human health or healthcare systems either; they also undermine food and water supplies, overload the existing infrastructure, and stress existing social protection systems. Within the Punjab, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) issues, air quality, land pollution, fertile land erosion, and contamination of natural resources are leading to rapid environmental delegation, they said.
Experts warned that Pakistan could approach “absolute scarcity” levels of water and face a drought as early as 2025. Together, these hazards pose not only threats to individual health; but also to economic growth, food security, and environmental sustainability in the province and for Pakistan. Efforts to include environmental considerations in all phases of policy making, planning, and development must, therefore, be actively pursued.
Existing health challenges cannot be surmounted comprehensively without adapting the “One-Health Triad” approach, and Environmental Health is the third critical component of this model, the experts said.