The City of Cape Town’s Environmental Health practitioners put heads together with other City departments and external parties on World Environmental Health Day to unpack how climate change is affecting environmental health, and the role of practitioners. 

World Environmental Health Day is commemorated on 26 September annually, with the International Federation of Environmental Health (IFEH) leading the charge.

The theme for 2019 focuses on climate change and how it affects human health, directly and indirectly – particularly in vulnerable communities.

According to IFEH, ‘direct and indirect health impacts associated with climate change are caused by rising temperatures, altered precipitation patterns as well as increasingly severe and frequent extreme weather events. Direct health impacts arise from hazards such as heat-waves, droughts and storms and indirect impacts come from exposures to disease vectors, air and water pollution. Rising carbon dioxide levels, which contribute to climate change, may also reduce the nutrient value in staple crops. This could increase food insecurity among some populations, particularly those in developing countries.’

‘Climate change is a very abstract concept for many people, but in Cape Town, we have, in the last three years, come face to face with the potential devastation that it can bring. It has forced us to start looking very differently at the traditional role of health practitioners, and those they work with. The conversation continues, because there are no easy answers. The one thing that is certain, is that collaboration within the City administration is crucial, but also with outside parties and of course our residents.

‘The City’s Environmental Health Department performs so many different functions that the public is oblivious to, and they acquit themselves of their task very well. However, the demands on these professionals increase daily, as a result of factors like climate change, the growing population and other socio-economic factors. So, while climate change is the focus of World Environmental Health Day, it is also an opportunity to acknowledge the efforts of the department and the role it plays in building safer communities,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Community Services and Health, Councillor Zahid Badroodien.

In the 2018/19 financial year, the City’s Environmental Health practitioners exceeded their targets in a number of performance indicators, as outlined below:

Number of visits to schools for Health Promotion Outreach Programmes 600767
Number of Health & Hygiene Projects related to informal settlements completed 9001 204
Number of block baiting stations for vector control of rats75 000110 416
% food samples complying with relevant legislation standards75%85.7%
Number of days when air pollution exceeds RSA Ambient Air Quality Standards405

Residents can report any health nuisance or environment-related complaints or concerns to the City’s call centre on 0860 103 089 or visit their nearest Environmental Health office or clinic.

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