World Environment Day: Announcing Vital Strategies’ scientific sessions on air pollution at The Union World Conference on Lung Health

On World Environment Day we highlight the work of Union affiliate Vital Strategies (VS) and Dr Thomas Matte, VS Vice President for Environmental Health, who spoke recently about air pollution at a side event of the World Health Assembly– and announced scientific sessions for The Union World Conference on Lung Heath. He said:

“Despite staggering statistics on the global impact of disease from air pollution, nearly 4 in 5 adults in 135 countries are satisfied about the air quality where they live, according to a 2012 Gallop poll, even though more than 90% of people globally live where air pollution levels exceed WHO guidelines.

“Clinicians have important roles to play in changing the way the public thinks about air pollution and its health risks. In clinic settings, what providers say or don’t say can powerfully influence patient perceptions of health risks and their ability to address them. For air pollution, harm reduction counselling is especially relevant for household air pollution.  For example, clinicians can reinforce to patients the importance of exclusive use of LPG or other clean cooking technologies as they become available to replace solid fuels.  And as role models, clinicians can have a say in facility investments in cleaner energy and vehicles.

“I also believe that we should be empowering clinicians, clinical organisations and health ministries in their roles as educators, scientists, and opinion leaders to help close the gap between public perception and facts about air pollution.  To do this, they need enough knowledge of air pollution health effects, sources and solutions to engage with media and in other public forums. Longer-term, as alliance-builders, clinicians can support grassroots environmental movements that are building in many middle and some low-income countries, adding powerful voices as health experts trusted by the public and media.

“As one example of VS’s work in this area, along with my colleague Neil Schluger, Senior Advisor on Science and Education at VS, who is also pulmonologist and a faculty member of the East Africa pulmonary training initiative in Addis Ababa, we have established an Air Pollution and Lung Health working group at The Union.  The group’s goal is to elevate the importance of air pollution in The Union’s science, training and policy advocacy agenda. 

“For the Union’s World Lung Conference in Guadalajara in October, we have partnered with Asociación Latinoamericana de Tórax (ALAT) to plan scientific sessions and networking with advocacy organisations.  We will be looking for additional opportunities to hold workshops and trainings at conferences held by the Union, ALAT and other member organisations represented by the Forum of International Respiratory Societies. 

“We see these efforts as an important way to support WHO’s global road map for response to air pollution and look forward to partnering with WHO in this agenda.”

Vital Strategies will have at least two sessions at The Union World Conference on Lung Health on air pollution, these are:

Cookstove intervention trials: research update and implications for clean household energy strategies

Nearly 3 billion people live in households depending on solid cooking fuels that cause indoor and ambient pollution and harm to health across the life course. Interventions to reduce these impacts have included providing improved solid fuel stoves or clean fuels and stoves. This symposium will consider results from randomised improved cook stove intervention trials and design of ongoing clean fuel trials. Evidence concerning efficacy for reducing health risks as well as stove performance, preference and use will be discussed. The implications for practice, research and strategies to reduce the global health impacts of air pollution will be discussed.

Air pollution effects on lung health, pneumonia and tuberculosis risk

Exposure to air pollution – both household and ambient – is the most important global environmental risk factor for premature mortality, mainly from lung and cardiovascular conditions.  In addition, growing evidence links exposure to combustion pollutants to a wide range of adverse effects on lung health across the life course.  This symposium will provide an update on findings of recent research concerning the effects of exposures to household and ambient air pollution on lung function, risk of pneumonia and tuberculosis.  The implications of mechanisms linking tobacco smoke and TB risk possible effects of air pollution on TB risk will also be discussed.

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