Strengthening Primary Health Care, Building Resilient Systems Critical As Climate-Related Shocks Occur

Project Syndicate: Safeguarding Health in a Warming World
Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance

“…A resilient primary health care system is the best defense against [climate change and natural disasters]. Yet it occupies little space on the climate agenda. … Beyond compromising immediate disaster response, failure to build resilience into health care systems undermines the long-term delivery of basic health interventions, exacerbating the vulnerability of the system — and of the population it serves. … Without effective primary health care, the response to shocks will always be reactive, costly, and inefficient. Fortunately, there is already a system in place that can facilitate the delivery of the necessary level of care. … The immunization system — which, to be sure, should be expanded to reach all children — can serve as a foundation on which to build primary health care. With community relationships, supply chains, trained staff, data monitoring, disease surveillance, and health records already in place, it becomes far easier to deliver other health interventions that can benefit both individuals and the wider community, such as nutritional supplements and malaria-prevention programs. Even if the world manages to prevent the average global temperature from rising more than 2° Celsius above pre-industrial levels, we will need to brace ourselves for a dramatic increase in climate-related health emergencies. The expansion and strengthening of primary health care is an effective — and cost-effective — means of building resilience against the challenges that await us” (7/2).

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