Solutions / Health Sector Leadership

Health Sector Leadership

Who It Affects

By learning about the impact of air pollution on patient health, healthcare professionals can inform patients and act as advocates for clean air action. Over 8,000 people have joined the OpenWHO course on air pollution and health targeting health workers. Will you be next? Join the online course here


Education & advocacy

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03 - Education & advocacy Education & advocacy
  • Convey the health burden

    Inform yourself about the effects of air pollutants, especially ozone and particulate matter that are emitted by diesel motors, biomass and other sources on critical organs. Learn about the heightened risks of heart attack, stroke, lung cancer and chronic respiratory diseases that can result.

  • Protect those at risk

    Inform your patients about the health risks of air pollution, its major sources, and the particular risks faced by children, the elderly, people suffering from asthma, and the poor, as well as households using biomass, coal or kerosene for cooking, heating or lighting.

  • Support improved standards

    Advocate for national and local air pollution standards based on WHO air quality guidelines, which are carefully developed in light of the death and disease evidence about ambient (outdoor) and household air pollution at different concentrations.

  • Advocate for monitoring

    Advocate for routine monitoring and reporting of air pollution levels locally and nationally, particularly PM2.5 and ozone, along with health harmful pollutants such as oxides of nitrogen, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and volatile organic particles. More

  • Conduct health-based assessments

    Assess your local death and diseases tool from air pollution, using reliable and easy-to-use, models like WHO’s AirQ+. You can also estimate health care costs from air pollution, based on days lost from school and work, as well as your local health care costs.

  • Air pollution and health training for health workers

    This course examines the main health impacts of air pollution and which roles health workers can play to protect and promote people’s health. Official Certificate of Achievement. Air Pollution and health: an introduction for health workers

    For other WHO training and educational opportunities on environment and health: Environmental health trainings


Sustainable facilities

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01 - Sustainable facilities Healthcare facilities have been estimated to contribute between 3–8% of national greenhouse emissions in developed countries. New sustainable design techniques can be adopted to turn facilities into beacons of progress.
  • Power generation

    Due to their critical need for consistent power and heat, hospitals can reduce their contribution to air pollution by developing clean, on-site power generation using strategies such as combined heat and power generation (CHP) that harness otherwise wasted heat produced for building use.

  • Natural ventilation

    Natural and mixed mode ventilation reduces costs, pollution and improves air exchange for better infection control over purely mechanical systems. This dovetails with energy-efficient building design such as windows and greenery to protect from extreme heat or cold and screens to protect against disease-bearing insects.

  • Renewable energy

    Small PV solar systems or hybrid solar-fuel based systems offer particular efficiencies for off-grid clinics and hospitals as well as urban facilities with unreliable power access. PV panels operate during daylight and off-peak hours while generators pitch in for heavier loads. Estimate costs and feasibility using USAID-developed HOMER software.

  • Building design

    Poor healthcare waste management increases pollution from uncontrolled incineration as well as increasing certain infectious and chronic disease risks. Separate out hazardous wastes at the source that must be specially treated from more general waste, that could be composted, reprocessed or recycled.

  • Water management

    Better management can include rainwater harvesting or reuse of “greywater” from sources such as laundries or kitchens for other purposes. Reducing energy required for extraction and transport also cuts pollution and lowers health facilities’ costs while protecting availability of clean drinking water.


Service delivery

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02 - Service delivery Health services - indispensable resources, especially to rapidly developing countries - can nonetheless leave a significant carbon footprint. New approaches can have a profound effect on how people receive care while mitigating contribution to air pollution and other environmental impacts.
  • Energy-efficient devices

    Low-voltage medical devices powered by batteries, which can be recharged by PV solar systems, improve access to vital procedures, especially in developing regions lacking reliable electricity. A pattern of “reverse innovation” is emerging with higher-income regions using these devices to reduce energy consumption and improving patient care.

  • Sustainable procurement

    Using a “cradle to grave approach” including procurement of more environmentally-friendly materials wherever possible, storing optimal, not excessive stock and careful separation of hazardous healthcare waste from other plastics, glass, metal and biodegradables that can be recycled or reprocessed.

  • Tele-health services

    New video-conferencing technology can facilitate home health care and remote fieldwork, allowing for easy access to underserved communities, while cutting down on the emissions generated by travel.

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Air Pollution in Your City

The WHO, UN Environment and CCAC are building a global database of air pollution data and its impacts on our health.