NIEHS recently helped support one of the key first steps in implementing a resolution directing the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) to develop integrated climate and environment services for health. Resolution 33, which passed at the 18th World Meteorological Congress last June, calls on National Meteorological and Hydrological Services to engage more closely with their country and regional health partners to identify and provide integrated information services for health risks, including heat, extreme weather events, air pollution, dust storms, and water and vector-borne infectious diseases. NIEHS-WHO Collaborating Centre Director John Balbus, M.D., was invited as a guest expert consultant to a workshop in Geneva in January where staff from the World Health Organization (WHO) met with their counterparts from WMO to create a workplan for the first two years of this strengthened collaboration.
Building on Six Years of Formal Collaboration
The new resolution elevates collaboration between the two United Nations organizations, coming six years after the formal creation of a joint WMO/WHO Climate and Health Office. The WMO/WHO Joint Office, created as part of WMO’s efforts to implement the Global Framework for Climate Services, has provided a critical point of contact for WHO and WMO. The WMO/WHO Joint Office is staffed by Joy Shumake Guillemot, Ph.D., who has worked to facilitate communication between the organizations as well as with the external climate and health stakeholder community. Heads of the two organizations cited the value of the joint office in 2017 and pledged to deepen the collaboration, including the development of a joint Climate and Health Science Portal. Notably, the January workshop brought a wider array of programs together for this collaboration, including members of emergency preparedness and response teams from both organizations, and WMO experts on air pollution and hydrology.
Health Consequences of Weather and Climate Extremes is one of the NIEHS-WHO Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health Sciences’ four current focus areas. Through this partnership, NIEHS has supported several international summits sponsored by WHO, developed international versions of educational materials for climate change and health, and consulted with WHO on the role of the WMO/WHO Joint Office and its workplans. The joint office has approached NIEHS to share the Institute’s Climate Change and Human Health Literature Portal as part of the WHO-WMO Climate and Health Science Portal. At the January workshop, Balbus served on a panel of health experts offering perspectives on health priorities and best practices, and moderated a second panel of meteorological agency leaders discussing case studies of successful projects and collaborations with public health professionals. NIEHS also helps coordinate U.S. federal agency interactions through its leadership of the Global Change Research Program (GCRP) interagency Climate Change and Human Health Group. GCRP co-chair and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Climate and Health lead Juli Trtanj also attended the workshop and has been a key expert consultant to the joint office since its inception.
“NIEHS has been a strong partner, providing technical expertise and institutional support to WHO’s efforts on climate and health,” noted Guillemot. “Through this new integrated climate services for health initiative, NIEHS can not only help share best practices being developed through GCRP, but also help WHO and WMO engage the international community of climate and health stakeholders to build capacity where it is most needed.”