World Expert on the Links Between Climate Change and Human Health!
Sir Andy Haines is being recognized for his contributions in understanding the effects of climate change on public health, his leadership in expanding the scope of public health to one of Planetary Health, and for his mentorship of the next generation of health scientists and practitioners in preventive environmental health actions in the 21st century.
The 2022 Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement – often regarded as the ‘Nobel Prize for the Environment’ – has been awarded to British physician Sir Andy Haines, one of the first scientists to sound the alarm that changes to the natural environment have dangerous implications for human health.
Sir Andy Haines is the Professor of Environmental Change and Public Health at the Centre for Climate Change and Planetary Health, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). He was Director of LSHTM between 2001-2010.
Haines worked as a family doctor and researcher before realizing that the greatest thing he could do for human health was to reveal its critical connection to the health of our planet. He has since committed over three decades to understanding and working to prevent the impacts of environmental change, especially climate change, on human health.
After beginning his career as a doctor in London, Haines went on to serve in countries such as Jamaica and Nepal. His work treating vulnerable populations in low-income settings influenced his later career, both as a practicing family doctor and in making the link between ill-health and environmental changes. In the 1990s, along with eminent epidemiologist Professor Tony McMichael, he co-authored some of the most important early assessments of climate change and human health.
Since then, his work has focused on the environmental influences on health, including the effects of climate change – as well as the health co-benefits of low carbon policies. From 1993-6 he was the Regional Director of Research at the National Health Service, North Thames. He was knighted for services to medicine in 2005.
Tyler Prize Executive Committee Chair Julia Marton-Lefèvre said that since identifying this crucial interlinkage in the early ‘90s, Haines has worked urgently to establish the evidence base for global climate action and policy change.
“As a leader in Planetary Health, Sir Andy’s findings have been a wake-up call for humanity. He has focused his life’s work on building international, multidisciplinary research and collaborations that form strategies and policies to protect global health – especially in vulnerable low-income countries – in our rapidly changing planet.”
Haines, who is the Professor of Environmental Change and Public Health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said it is a “great honor and privilege” to be selected as the recipient of the 2022 Tyler Prize.
“I think it reflects the growing awareness that climate change isn’t just about damaging the environment – according to the World Health Organization, ‘climate change is the single biggest health threat facing humanity’. From the effects of extreme heat and wildfires to effects on infectious disease transmission, food supply, migration, poverty… climate change can affect health in so many ways.”
“Our future depends on taking urgent action, to adapt to the changes we are already experiencing, and to cut the greenhouse gas emissions causing climate change,” Haines said.
Haines was among the first to research the health benefits of low-carbon actions – including cycling, walking, and using public transport instead of driving, as well as using clean, renewable energy and eating a more plant-based diet.
“Policies and actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will not only benefit human health by reducing the risk of dangerous climate change in the longer term, but they also have positive near-term benefits, including reduced air pollution, increased physical activity, and improved nutrition,” Haines said.
Dr. Jonathan Patz, Past Director of the Global Health Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and member of the Tyler Prize Executive Committee, said that Haines’ work highlighted the need to approach public health from a global perspective.
“It’s timely that in 2022, now into the third year of the global Covid-19 pandemic, the Tyler Prize Committee chose to honor a ‘one planet’ leader in public health. We need urgent action on these interconnected issues – and Sir Andy’s interdisciplinary work is out front.”
Haines said the Covid-19 pandemic highlights the fragile relationship between society, the economy, and health.
“We live on a small planet – we are all connected whether we like it or not. We don’t have a lot of time to reduce the risks of climate change – inaction and pessimism are luxuries we can’t afford,” he said.
“We need to work together and cooperate globally to address the big challenges of our time.”
Haines has been a member of many international committees including the WHO Advisory Committee on Health Research, and the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for the Second, Third, and Fifth Assessment Reports.
He is currently ranked #28 on The Reuters Hot List of the top 1000 most influential climate scientists worldwide and is the highest-ranked health scientist on the list. In 2021, Haines co-authored the book, Planetary Health: Safeguarding Human Health and the Environment in the Anthropocene, with Howard Frumkin
HEALTH CO-BENEFITS OF LOW CARBON POLICIES
Not only was Haines one of the first scientists to sound the alarm about the dangers climate change posed to human health; he was also among the first to research the health benefits of actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
In 2008-2009, he chaired the groundbreaking Lancet Task Force on Climate Change Mitigation and Public Health, which assessed mitigation strategies in energy, transport, housing, food, and agriculture. The group’s report signaled a critical turning point in policy development, allowing for more cost-effective policy solutions.
Haines’ scientific leadership on the health ‘co-benefits’ of climate mitigation actions – such as walking, cycling, and using public transport instead of driving, moving towards a more plant-based diet, and switching to clean renewable energy – has had a profound impact on re-framing the climate discourse towards a positive and socially-attractive narrative.
In 2014-2015 he chaired the Rockefeller/ Lancet Commission on Planetary Health, which reported that “we have mortgaged the health of future generations to realize economic and development gains in the present,” and made policy recommendations to stabilize Earth’s key life-support systems.
CLIMATE CHANGE: AN INCREASINGLY DIRE THREAT TO HUMAN HEALTH AND SURVIVAL
In 2019, Haines’ co-authored The Imperative for Climate Action to Protect Health in The New England Journal of Medicine. The article detailed how, if no additional actions were taken to combat climate change in coming decades, “substantial increases in morbidity and mortality” could be expected – including illnesses related to heat, poor air quality, food insecurity, as well as vector-borne diseases.
A LEADER IN PLANETARY HEALTH
Haines is a passionate collaborator and mentor to the next generation of planetary health leaders. “I’ve learned that the secret to success is who you collaborate with. I’ve got a great team of colleagues – mainly young, early-career colleagues now. They’re absolutely tremendous and it’s a great privilege to work with them,” he said.
Through his work addressing the environmental challenges confronting humanity, Haines strives to influence both policy and practice.
“My hope is that by emphasizing the opportunities to improve health, we can increase the motivation for climate action and accelerate progress towards net-zero emissions.”
Haines was honored at an award ceremony in London, on April 8, 2022.
Photo Credits: Ken Leeder
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