HEALTH & WELLBEING THEME ACTION PLAN
Health is a ‘State of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity’. The Health and wellbeing strand of the strategy takes account of the Social Determinants of Health (SDH) and enables us to make the link between health equity and climate change. SDH is a term to describe the social and environmental conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work, and age, which shape and drive health outcomes.
This theme therefore considers the wellbeing of Reading’s people holistically, with the emphasis on living healthily in a changing climate and addressing health inequities by supporting the most vulnerable communities who are disproportionately exposed to climate impact including the elderly, homeless people, BAME communities and those living in our most deprived wards. It also recognises that the health impacts of climate change will be exacerbated by the additional risks associated with COVID-19.
The actions we need to take to reduce CO 2 and adapt to climate change also have the potential to improve our community’s health and wellbeing. Most of the themes of the Reading Climate Change Strategy contribute to the 2030 carbon zero target directly: they are primarily concerned with mitigation. The Health & Well-being Theme focuses on aligning health and climate goals as well as dealing with the consequences of climate change that are likely to negatively affect the health of people in Reading over the next 10 years, despite best efforts at mitigation.
We have used the WHO analysis of the health impacts of climate change18 to define three categories of risk which are expected to significantly impact Reading – increased heat waves and related air quality issues, increased rainfall and associated flooding, and changing transmission patterns for infectious diseases. All of these can negatively affect the physical and mental health and wellbeing of Reading’s residents. Alongside these are the underlying issues of health issues associated with fuel poverty and the potential for mental health challenges associated with anxiety and stress caused by climate change.
Many of the themes include outreach and education strategies; we propose that an integrated resource base and education programme be supported by appropriate partners. In order to monitor progress under many of the themes, monitoring of environmental characteristics will be needed. We propose that these be linked to monitoring of health data, potentially via a Lancet Countdown project. This could make environmental and health data visible to the public e.g. on public billboards or through apps.
This is the first time that health has been included in Reading’s climate change strategy, therefore many of the actions are about linking with existing local and national frameworks and strategies, researching external sources, setting up resources, systems and processes for Reading and establishing networks to link health professionals to climate change planning. Outcome based targets could include falling levels of asthma, lower rate of heat-related fatalities and increase of journeys by zero carbon modes of walking and cycling.
Health Theme Action Plan: By 2025, people in Reading will be well informed about how to embed climate-friendly activities into their lives and self-manage the health impacts of climate change, benefiting from policies and programmes that enable them to thrive despite its effects. All climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies will consider the impact on health; with particular emphasis on heat-related health risks, air quality and mental wellbeing.