Hundreds of medical professionals and groups representing over 40 million healthcare workers came together Tuesday to demand that world leaders pursue a #HealthyRecovery from the coronavirus pandemic that incorporates preparation for future public health crises as well as environmental and climate action into economic stimulus packages.
"The enormous investments your governments will make over the coming months in key sectors like healthcare, transport, energy, and agriculture must have health protection and promotion embedded at their core."
The demand was made in a letter sent to leaders of the Group of 20 (G20), the global economic forum made up of governments and central bank governors from 19 nations and the European Union. Signatories included the World Medical Association, International Council of Nurses, Standing Committee of European Doctors (CPME), and the American Public Health Association.
Medical associations in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, France, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and other countries have signed on to the joint call, which says that "health professionals stand united in support of a pragmatic, science-based approach to managing the Covid-19 pandemic" and the recovery from it.
The letter is also "supported and promoted by the Global Climate and Health Alliance, Every Breath Matters, and the World Health Organization in service of the global medical and health community," according to a website set up to share it with the world.
What the world needs now is a #HealthyRecovery—that’s why, as a member of @UKHealthClimate, we’re asking @BorisJohnson and other world leaders to use economic stimulus packages to improve the health of people and the planet: https://t.co/IWezQnNMPRhttps://t.co/fwUCbjIpEb
— RCPCH (@RCPCHtweets) May 26, 2020
"Before Covid-19, air pollution—primarily from traffic, inefficient residential energy use for cooking and heating, coal-fired power plants, the burning of solid waste, and agriculture practices—was already weakening our bodies," says the letter. "A truly healthy recovery will not allow pollution to continue to cloud the air we breathe and the water we drink. It will not permit unabated climate change and deforestation, potentially unleashing new health threats upon vulnerable populations."
"In a healthy economy and civil society the most vulnerable among us are looked after," the letter continues. "Workers have access to well-paying jobs that do not exacerbate pollution or nature degradation; cities prioritize pedestrians, cyclists, and public transport, and our rivers and skies are protected and clean. Nature is thriving, our bodies are more resilient to infectious diseases, and nobody is pushed into poverty because of healthcare costs."
Emphasizing the importance of involving medical experts in economic recovery policies, the letter adds that "the enormous investments your governments will make over the coming months in key sectors like healthcare, transport, energy, and agriculture must have health protection and promotion embedded at their core. What the world needs now is a #HealthyRecovery. Your stimulus plans must be a prescription for just that."
>40 million health care professionals demand @G20 leaders take #COVID19 recovery action that reduces #AirPollution, reforms #FossilFuels subsidies, scales #RenewableEnergy, ramps up public transportation, reduces #GHG emissions. #HealthyRecoveryhttps://t.co/8ZJ3krOFBD pic.twitter.com/0cKg5IyUPF
— XR Health Professionals (@XRHealthPros) May 25, 2020
The medical professionals' demand echoed calls from climate campaigners, advocacy groups, and progressive policymakers in countries such as Canada and across the globe for a just recovery and global Green New Deal as the international community moves past the pandemic. The new letter highlights that "the layers of this ongoing tragedy are many, and magnified by inequality and underinvestment in public health systems."
"We have witnessed death, disease, and mental distress at levels not seen for decades," the letter says. "These effects could have been partially mitigated, or possibly even prevented, by adequate investments in pandemic preparedness, public health, and environmental stewardship. We must learn from these mistakes and come back stronger, healthier, and more resilient."
The letter urges policymakers to "use smarter incentives and disincentives in the service of a healthier, more resilient society," explaining that "if governments were to make major reforms to current fossil fuel subsidies, shifting the majority towards the production of clean renewable energy, our air would be cleaner and climate emissions massively reduced, powering an economic recovery that would spur global GDP gains of almost $100 trillion U.S. dollars between now and 2050."
— Energy Watch Group (@EWGnetwork) May 26, 2020
With the letter, said International Council of Nurses president Annette Kennedy, signatories "are calling on governments to make sure that pollution levels do not return to previous levels, so that our children and grandchildren will be able to grow up healthily in a livable and sustainable climate."
The joint call was welcomed by environmental advocacy groups such as Greenpeace as well as global leaders like Mary Robinson, former Irish president and U.N. high commissioner for human rights. Now chair of the Elders, Robinson on Tuesday voiced support for the demand from health professionals around the world.
"Rebuilding a healthy society means taking real and lasting action on the climate crisis," she said. "Covid-19 has shone a light on the interconnectedness of our shared vulnerabilities and demonstrated beyond doubt that public health and the protection of our planet are inextricably linked."