media release: Public health organizations calling for a green, healthy and just recovery

Toronto/Ottawa: August 6, 2020

Organizations representing public health professionals across the country and community health centres across Ontario made a submission to the Federal Finance Committee today with recommendations for a COVID-19 economic recovery that would achieve deep climate emission reductions across the country, while creating new jobs, improving health, and reducing health inequities.

As disruptive as the pandemic has been to the health and well-being of Canadians, it pales in comparison to the disruption that will occur if we allow global warming to continue unabated.

“The COVID-19 recovery offers us an opportunity – perhaps the final opportunity – to mitigate climate change that is rapidly approaching one or more tipping points that could dramatically change life on this planet” offered Kim Perrotta, Executive Director of Creating Healthy and Sustainable Environments (CHASE).  “We have 10 years to dramatically decrease climate emissions if we are to avoid global warming that would harm hundreds of millions of people each year.  These are impacts that would happen in our lives or the lives of our children.”

Over the last several months, we have all become aware that the loss of biodiversity in our ecosystems is a major risk factor for emerging infectious diseases such as COVID-19.

“While many of our colleagues are still focused on the immediate threat posed  by COVID-19, they recognize climate change as an existential threat to life on the planet” offered Ian Culbert, Executive Director of the Canadian Public Health Association (CPHA).  “They want us to speak on their behalf on climate change and on the rapid loss of biodiversity around the world.  These are global health issues that affect us all.”

When it comes to health inequities, the parallels between COVID-19 and climate change are not surprising.

“COVID-19 has demonstrated how factors such as income, crowded housing, poor working conditions, limited transportation options, race and gender can have a profound impact on the health of people in our communities” said Kate Mulligan, Policy Director at the Alliance for Healthier Communities.  “Many of the factors responsible for higher rates of COVID-19 also make people more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. We have to address the underlying factors that put people at risk as well”

A COVID-19 economic recovery plan that prioritizes climate action can produce health benefits and social justice benefits if properly planned.

“There are solutions to climate change and many of those solutions can create immediate health benefits for Canadians by decreasing air pollution or increasing physical activity, to name just a few” offered Pegeen Walsh, Executive Director of the Ontario Public Health Association (OPHA). “Investments in public transit, active mobility, electric vehicles, renewable energy and building retrofits can produce immediate health benefits and reduce health inequities while also fighting climate change”.

Public health and community health leaders have vowed to continue efforts to call on all orders of government to invest in an economic recovery that protects human health, improves social justice, and accelerates strong climate action.

The Submission can be seen here: Public Health Submission

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