United for Health and Climate: Highlights from the Kathmandu Workshop on Climate Change, Health, and Equity

In a critical juncture of human history marked by the looming threats of climate change, the Partnership for Sustainable Development Nepal, alongside international and local organizations including the United States National Academy of Medicine, the Nepal Health Research Council, and the National Academy of Science and Technology Nepal, among others, convened a groundbreaking hybrid workshop titled “Connecting the Dots Between Climate Change and Health” in Kathmandu, Nepal on March 14 – 15, 2024. This assembly of high-level delegates, scientists, policymakers, and community implementers from around the globe aimed to tackle the unique challenges faced by South and Southeast Asia due to climate change, such as extreme weather events, vector-borne illnesses, and deteriorating air quality. These challenges underscore the critical intersection of climate change with public health and equity, necessitating urgent and united efforts to protect and enhance lives and livelihoods in the region.

The workshop commenced with opening remarks by the Prime Minister of Nepal, setting the stage for discussions on the critical nexus of climate and health in the region. Esteemed speakers including Mr. Bhusan Dahal, Vice-Chancellor of Nepal Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) Prof. Dr. Dilip Subba, Dr. Rabindra Prasad Dhakal, the Hon’ble Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Health Mr. Upendra Yadav, Hon’ble Minister of Energy, Water, and Irrigation Mr. Shakti Bahadur Basnet, and Right Honorable Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ provided valuable insights, highlighting the urgency of addressing climate-induced health issues.

The conference featured a roster of distinguished speakers: Dr. Ourania Kosti, Ms. Izabella Koziell, Dr. Zulfiqar Bhutta, Ms. Clare Langley-Hawthorne, and Dr. Victor J. Dzau, who shared their expertise on climate change, health, and equity. Their discussions paved the way for the formulation of the “Kathmandu Commitment-2024,” a set of commitments focusing on leveraging local solutions, Indigenous knowledge, and grassroots innovations to combat climate-related health challenges.

Sessions throughout the workshop covered a broad range of topics, including the political economy of climate and health, led by Dr. Popular Gentle, Dr. Suresh Tiwari, Prof. Dr. Shrinath Reddy, Dr. K. Locana Gunaratna, and Dr. Victor Hoe. Research and innovation sessions underscored the importance of regional collaboration in tackling climate change and health issues, with keynotes by Dr. Jonathan Patz and insightful remarks by Mr. Joe Torres from Canada Grand Challenge on the potential for cross-sector collaboration.

Community mobilization was a focal point, emphasizing the significance of engaging local communities in climate and health initiatives. Speakers Dr. Donald Warne, Ms. Saru Pyakurel, Dr. Carol O’Donnell, and Dr. Suraj Bhattarai highlighted the pivotal role of community-led solutions in addressing these challenges. The discussions were enriched by contributions from Dr. Amy Thein, Dr. Meghnath Dhimal, Dr. Sameer Mani Dixit, and Prof. Dr. Janak Koirala, who delved into topics such as nutrition, infectious diseases, and research frameworks.

The workshop culminated in the establishment of a Regional Hub and the unveiling of the “Kathmandu Commitment-2024” Committee, tasked with guiding the efforts of the South and Southeast Asia Regional Research and Innovation Hub for Climate Change, Health, and Equity. These commitments emphasize the importance of community involvement, particularly from vulnerable groups, in climate and health programs, and stress the need for evidence-based policies and strategic collaborations to tackle the multifaceted challenges posed by climate change and health disparities.

Concluding the event, Mr. Bishnu Bhatta underscored the critical need for collective action and innovation at the intersection of climate change, health, and equity. The establishment of the Regional Hub and the formulation of the “Kathmandu Commitments-2024” mark a significant step forward in addressing these challenges, emphasizing the necessity of local solutions informed by Indigenous knowledge and grassroots innovation for sustainable interventions. The workshop highlighted the vital role of political commitment, science, innovation, and action in driving progress, and extended gratitude to all contributors for their roles in the event’s success. The ongoing collaboration and actions facilitated by the Regional Hub underscore a commitment to building a healthier world and planet, with continuous opportunities for involvement from various stakeholders in the region.

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