Can the same course be addressed both to health professionals and parents raising their interest equally? Can scientific information be transmitted thoroughly and being understandable for the general audience? This new format was chosen by Fundació Roger Torné during their 2nd Conferences on “Global warming and children’s health” whose relationship has not been tackled by any other entity in our country so far. Like many health professionals all over Spain, For Fathers and Mothers medical staff took part in the conferences that were held in CosmoCaixa last November. We attended the event with other professionals and with all those who came to know the situation of our Planet and the importance of the current changes on our children’s health.
We were all shown many scientific researches, counting with the lecturers’ effort in order to “translate” for us into an understandable language. This is how we, more than 150 participants, knew about the accumulation of evidences regarding Global Warming reality and about its numerous uncertainties regarding its effects on current and future health concerning our children and the next generations.
The Conferences were inaugurated by Dr Ramón Folch1, as Commissioner. He placed us on the starting point explaining to us several concepts such as the difference between climate and meteorology and his Global Warming description as “anomalous and eutropic acceleration of the climatic evolution normal process”. Along the Conferences, and after each lecturer’s speech, he provided us with arguments which took us to reflection due to his single vision as “socioecologist” as he likes to define himself.
Dr Joan Grimalt1 remarked us the CO2 high levels in the air we are breathing; they are the highest on our planet’s history. These levels are precipitating the rise of temperature on the planet as well as global warming swiftness. I took his sentence “Humans, we are experimenting on the Planet and, besides, we are a fundamental part of the experiment”. Where does this lead us?
Dr Jordi Sunyer3, Conferences Scientific Director, described the effects on adults’ and children’s health, being children the most vulnerable group and, how population in general tends to be a bit skeptical, despite the amount of scientific evidences showing how important global warming is. What can we do to make people aware of the problem? We were proposed to avoid focusing the spreading on physical terms, such as the planet temperature warming but to make a reflection and spread Global Warming influence on health, where all of us feel more involved.
Dr Bart Ostro4 talked about the researches undertaken in California which show the relationship between rise of temperatures and mortality. On the other side, Dr Xavier Basañaga5,, Doctor on Biostatistics in the University of Harvard, presented preliminary data based on a research on the effects of thermal fluctuations on mortality in Catalonia and how hot weather, both in waves or extreme temperatures on isolated days, produces an increase on mortality. He also provided the data regarding the prevention plans effectiveness that are used to decrease the said mortality.
During his speech, Dr Xavier Rodó6 showed us in a clear way Catalonia clime forecasts for this century together with the evolution of infectious diseases due to this reason; Dr Edward B. Hayes7 talked about the change of temperatures and humidity influence on the transmitter vehicles of diseases and the difficulty to predict global warming impact. We were made aware on the need of having global warming tracking systems and its influence on the transformation of diseases and the way to cope with them.
Dr Aaron Bernstein8 explained thoroughly the key elements for our children development (air, food, water and shelter) explaining the changes that are taking place on each one of them as a consequence of global warming, as well as the direct imbalances on children’s health. Global warming is well known, it can be measured and all of this has been scientifically proved. “We are convinced of the assertiveness in our arguments, but they are not working to convince about the critical situation. We must re-invent the way to motivate. We need to innovate” Mr Bernstein said.
Health professionals, we have a key role. On one side, taking part in the Scientific Societies, promoting changes at regional, state and European levels by carrying out advising tasks in order to promote the change. On the other side, during our dairy task, by working on health prevention and promotion and, at the same time, by working in the mitigation of the individual effects on global warming, encouraging the changes in families and homes. Likewise we can help in our surgeries, with specific measures, acting on nicotine poisoning, informing on the skin general care, on the respiratory system and working with the population in risk (children, old people and chronic sick people). As experts of the problem and as executors of our patients’ health, we can become a transmitter agent to make people aware on the global problem; we can give incentives to those who promote the change both at an individual and familiar level and we can encourage the community conscience which promotes local changes on our influence area.
Being a mother, it is difficult for me to stay passive after having attended the conferences. Scientific evidences showing that my quality of life, as we know it currently, my comfort, both are possible thanks to sacrificing my children’s health, must be present on my small and big decisions each day. We find that the main limitation is in the fact that the current solutions are only based on sacrificing the luxury model that we know, to which we are not willing to renounce and, even more, in the competitive model we are living in. Depriving oneself of attitudes and luxuries that are not necessary and, mostly, educating our children to practice this philosophy, is something that we all agree during a conversation while having a coffee; nevertheless we are not capable to carry out changes on our habits in order to prevent global warming.
All in all, we have enjoyed some enriching and illustrative Conferences, with innovative aspects and, most important, an invitation to reflection and work to improve our environment by practicing some of the advices given during these two days and, the most important thing, showing a responsible attitude when taking our decisions.
1Dr Ramón Folch: Conferences Commissioner, Doctor on Biology and sociologist. ERF Director, UNESCO/FLACAM Sustainable Development Professor and Director of AIRE, Respiración y Salud Infantil exhibition.
2 Dr Joan Grimalt: Instituto de Diagnóstico Ambiental y Estudios del Agua (IDAEA) Director.
3 Dr Jordi Sunyer: Confferences Scientific Director. Physician, Centro de Investigación en Epidemiología Ambiental (CREAL) Codirector and Preventive Medicine and Public Health Professor In the University Pompeu Fabra, in Barcelona.