Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health

First WHO Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health - Conference summary report: CLEAN AIR FOR HEALTH: Geneva Action Agenda

Geneva, 1st November 2018 - At the conclusion of the first WHO Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health, participants agreed an aspirational goal of reducing the number of deaths from air pollution by two thirds by 2030. Leaders from national and city governments, intergovernmental organizations, civil society, philanthropy, research and academia considered the scientific evidence on air pollution and health and emphasized the urgent need for bold and prompt action to address this health crisis.

WHO Director-General's open letter to mayors on World Cities Day

Dear mayors of the world,

Former US President Lyndon B Johnson once said, “When the burdens of the presidency seem unusually heavy, I always remind myself it could be worse. I could be a mayor.” Johnson’s quote describes perfectly the enormous responsibility mayors have, but also the opportunity you have to change the lives of billions of people living in your cities.
Now, those lives are under threat by an invisible but beatable enemy that is right under your noses: air pollution. Nine out of 10 people in the world breathe polluted air, and air pollution in many places is still getting worse.

Cover Air Pollution and Child health report.

More than 90% of the world’s children breathe toxic air every day

Geneva, 29 October 2018 – Every day around 93% of the world’s children under the age of 15 years (1.8 billion children) breathe air that is so polluted it puts their health and development at serious risk. Tragically, many of them die: the World Health Organization estimates that in 2016, 600,000 children died from acute lower respiratory infections caused by dirty air. A new WHO report on Air pollution and child health: Prescribing clean air examines the heavy toll of both ambient (outside) and household air pollution on the health of the world’s children, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. The report is being launched on the eve of WHO’s first ever Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health.

A schoolboy walks through smoke and fumes emitted from a waste dump in the Nigerian city of Port Harcourt

WHO’s First Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health, 30 October – 1 November 2018

From 30 October to 1 November 2018, WHO’s First Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health will take place, with a particular focus on improving air quality, combatting climate change and saving lives. The first two days of the conference will present evidence, identify gaps and solutions, and will be targeted at practitioners and other technical and political representatives from the health sector and other sectors relevant to the discourse. The third day will be a High-Level Action Day.

A schoolboy walks through smoke and fumes emitted from a waste dump in the Nigerian city of Port Harcourt (photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images)

International lead poisoning prevention week of action, 21-27 October 2018

From 21 to 27 October 2018 the international lead poisoning prevention week of action will take place, with a particular focus on eliminating lead paint. Lead poisoning is preventable, yet the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation has estimated that, based on 2016 data, lead exposure accounted for 540 000 deaths and 13.9 million years lost to disability and death due to long-term effects on health, with the highest burden in developing regions.
Of particular concern is the role of lead exposure in the development of intellectual disability in children. Even though there is wide recognition of this problem and many countries have taken action, exposure to lead, particularly in childhood, remains of key concern to health care providers and public health officials worldwide.

Third Global Conference on Health and Climate Change, 16-17 October 2018

29 August 2018 – The SIDS Initiative has a vision that by 2030, all health systems in SIDS will be resilient to climate variability and change. PAHO, jointly with WHO, will convene the Caribbean meeting of the geographically dispersed III Global Conference on Health and Climate Change: Special Focus on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in St. George's, Grenada, from 16-17 October 2018. The conference will be attended by Ministers of Health, Ministers of Environment, partner agencies, and stakeholders from Caribbean SIDS, who will discuss and identify actions and indicators for an Action Plan on Health and Climate Change to be implemented in the Caribbean.

WHO calls for increased investment to reach the goal of a toilet for all

1 October 2018 - The world will not reach the goal of universal sanitation coverage – where every person in the world has access to toilets that safely contain excreta – by 2030* unless countries make comprehensive policy shifts and invest more funds, WHO warned today as it launched the first global guidelines on sanitation and health.

WHO /D. Rodriguez

Reduce air pollution to beat NCDs: from recognition to action

27 September 2018 – Air pollution is now recognised as the second leading cause of non-communicable disease (NCD) deaths after tobacco smoking, causing more than 5 million such deaths each year, and 7 million deaths in total, including communicable diseases. NCDs caused by air pollution include heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and lung cancer.

The health impacts of air pollution may be even higher than 5 million NCD deaths per year, given recent evidence indicating even larger health impacts for those diseases at current exposures

A woman cooling with a fan

WHO information and public health advice, heat and health

25 July 2018 – Exposure to excessive heat has wide ranging physiological impacts for all humans, often amplifying existing conditions and resulting in pre-mature death and disability.

The negative health impacts of heat are predictable and largely preventable with specific public health actions.

WHO has issued public health guidance for the general public and medical professionals on coping with extreme heat.

WHO/M. Bring

SDG6 Synthesis Report released for the High Level Political Forum 9-18 July

Sustainable Development Goal 6 is ambitious but not rocket science – Watch the video to find out what we need to do. The video supports the launch of the SDG 6 Synthesis Report on Water and Sanitation that provides an overview of the global progress toward achieving SDG 6. It builds on the latest data available for the eleven SDG 6 global indicators and is released ahead of the High-level Political Forum for Sustainable Development in July 2018. The report is a joint position from the UN family. The full report and highlights are available in 5 languages.

Highlighted key area/topic

Air pollution                                         » Chemical safety                                  » Climate change                                   » Occupational health                           » Social determinants of health            » Water, sanitation and health               »

About us

By focusing on reducing environmental and social risk factors, nearly a quarter of the global burden of disease can be prevented. Examples include promoting safe household water storage, better hygiene measures, safer management of toxic substances in the home and workplace.

Monthly PHE e-News

Each PHE e-News feature includes convenient links to the relevant topic for more detailed information, a listing of upcoming events, recent publications and links to WHO regional offices.

Sign up for PHE e-News

To subscribe simply send an email to with the following exact text "subscribe HealthandEnvironmentNews" in the body of your email message.

Other newsletters

Healthy Environments for Children Alliance (HECA)

Global occupational health network (GOHNET)

Water, Sanitation and Health (WSH)

To stay up-to-date with our latest WASH news, events and publications, email with the text "subscribe WATERSANITATION" in the body of your email.

Environmental health in emergencies (EHE)

To subscribe simply send an email to with the following exact text "subscribe EHEMERGENCIES [your name]" in the body of your email message.

First WHO conference on Air pollution and health

Third Global Conference on Health and Climate Change

Commentary highlight

Health must be the number one priority for urban planners

Dr Maria Neira, WHO Director, Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health

Twitter @DrMariaNeira

More commentaries

Publication highlight

Preventing disease through a healthier and safer workplace

A global assessment on the health impacts that could be avoided through healthier and safer workplaces.

Global Strategy Overview

More publications


Statistical information

Quantifying environmental health impacts

The environmental burden of disease quantifies the amount of disease caused by environmental risks.

Public health and environment in the Global Health Observatory (GHO) data

Mortality and burden of disease from unhealthy environment


Air pollution and lung cancer: testimony of a surgeon from New Delhi

12 November 2018

Latest PHE feature