GENEVA: Pregnant women, newborns, children, adolescents, and older people are facing serious health complications due to climate change, a new collection of papers published in the Journal of Global Health revealed on Wednesday.

According to Philippines News Agency, the specific needs of these groups have been largely neglected in the climate response. The articles document scientific evidence on the health impacts of different climate hazards at key life stages, from heat waves to air pollution and natural disasters like wildfires and flooding. The findings indicate that climate-related health risks have been underestimated for younger and older people and during pregnancy, with serious implications.

Extreme heat, for example, has been linked to a spike in preterm births, the leading cause of childhood deaths, while older people are more likely to suffer heart attacks or respiratory distress. An increase of 1°C in minimum daily temperature over 23.9°C (75F) can raise the risk of infant mortality by up to 22.4 percent. Dr. Anshu Banerjee, director of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health and Ageing at the WHO, stated that while awareness of climate change has increased, actions to safeguard the most at-risk populations have been insufficient.

The collection, titled "Climate change across the life course," reports specific physical and mental health impacts arising from climate hazards. High temperatures are associated with adverse birth outcomes, cognitive function impairment in children, and increased heart attacks among older people. Ambient air pollution raises the likelihood of hypertension during pregnancy, low birth weight, preterm birth, and negative impacts on fetal brain and lung development.

Climate-related natural disasters significantly affect mental and physical health. Flooding and drought reduce access to safe water and food, increasing diarrheal diseases and malnutrition. Wildfires increase respiratory disorders and cardiovascular mortality rates for older people. Climate-related displacements and disruptions have severe consequences for those needing regular access to health services and social support.

A healthy environment supports health throughout life, enabling healthy growth and development, pregnancies, and aging. Anayda Portela, a WHO scientist and author, emphasized the urgent need to mitigate climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, building climate resilience, and ensuring continuity of health services for those most at risk. The WHO noted that 2023 was the warmest year on record in over 170 years, with multiple climate emergencies occurring.

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