Published: 4 December 2023
Public Health Wales welcomes the move by the UN climate summit to put a focus on health for the first time. Public Health Wales is working both inside and outside our organisation to improve sustainability and reduce the impact of climate change on the nation’s health. Climate change has been identified as the greatest health threat facing humanity. It threatens the essential ingredients of good health – clean air, safe drinking water, nutritious food supply and safe shelter and has the potential to undermine decades of progress on global public health.
Tackling the public health effects of climate change is a strategic priority for Public Health Wales. We want to help NHS Wales reach its target of net zero by 2030. We are helping reduce the impact on the planet; through our strategy, research and health impact assessments as well as through practical measures in our offices and through our primary care champions.
This year our work has highlighted that some communities in Wales are likely to be more affected by climate change than others, and some are less likely to be able to take action to respond to these changes. These include lower-income households, those living in areas that regularly flood, and people living with disabilities or chronic (long-term) conditions, and their carers. The effects of climate change are likely to make existing health inequalities in Wales worse.
Through a network of local champions, Public Health Wales is working with primary care providers to improve the environmental sustainability of their day- to-day practice. This is part of the Greener Primary Care Wales Framework and Award scheme. The project has seen GP surgeries, community pharmacies, dental and optometry practices change their ways of working to reduce their impact on the planet. Whether that’s by putting solar panels on the roof, reducing plastic waste or changing to LED lighting, every action is making a difference.
Public Health Wales has also put a focus on its own building facilities, supporting new ways of working while reducing our carbon footprint. We vacated two buildings in Cardiff and Mamhilad and the 5th floor of Capital Quarter 2, Cardiff, saving 18 tonnes of carbon emissions. Work has begun to vacate office space in Carmarthen which will save 36 tonnes of carbon. When vacating spaces we continue to support the circular economy by recycling and by donating furniture to the local community.
We have identified changes that could be made to reduce emissions in single-use equipment in our microbiology laboratories and we will be sharing our findings across the wider health care sector. We also take an active part in the Green Health Network, working with partners in all healthcare settings across Wales to reduce carbon emissions.
We also encourage our staff to take individual actions to protect the planet, like using active travel and recycling and reusing more. We are currently running a staff challenge to come up with new ways we can make our work more sustainable.
Dr.Tracey Cooper, CEO of Public Health Wales said; “We know that working together we can all do something to support a greener future with the health benefits that it can bring. We can and must act now to reduce the impact of a changing climate on our physical and mental health and wellbeing.”