The way forward: health policy makers enhance capacity on climate change impact and health

Thailand’s Department of Health and the Office of National Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning (ONEP) is preparing for health risks caused by climate change. The management of the related departments strengthened their understanding of climate change and approaches in order to develop policy, strategy, measures and activities of the department at all levels as well as enhance cooperation with related government and private organisations.
 
The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified climate change as the biggest global health threat of the 21st century. Exacerbating the rate of mortality from heat waves, an upscale of natural disasters, increased prevalence of vector born and waterborne diseases, its impacts on health affect both individuals and the global population. This is an increasingly urgent issue and requires all private and government sectors to cooperate. 


The health sector in Thailand is on alert. On 6 June 2018, a workshop on the preparedness of implementation in health risks and climate change was held by ONEP, the Department of Health and the Risk-based National Adaptation Plan (Risk NAP) project for policy-level management of the Ministry of Public Health. It was attended by managers from different departments under Ministry of Public Health as well as WHO Thailand and other health-related organisations. The knowledge and practices gained will be integrated with the (drafted) National Adaptation Plans and (drafted) National Adaptation Plan on Climate Change and Health 2018 – 2030.

Dr. Kollawat Sakhakara, Policy and Strategy Section, Climate Change Management and Coordination Division, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, stated during the workshop that: “Currently, the first National Adaptation Plan is being drafted and will be submitted to the Cabinet at the end of the year. Various authorities have collaborated.” He also reiterated that “this is work that cannot be done by one organisation. The main approach is the integration of and cooperation from every sector.” 
 
ONEP has been drafting the National Adaption Plan since 2015. The initial process was the study of vulnerable areas (6 strategies) and compiling the guidelines for adaptation in the second year.  The preparatory approach includes: 
 
1. Stakeholder capacity building
2. Database system, research and development and monitoring and evaluation
3. Multi sectoral and agency collaboration
4. Institutional arrangement, budgeting and finance system and supporting mechanism
5. Local – international collaboration

Six pilot areas have been identified; Chiang Rai province, Central Chaopraya River Basin, Udon Thani province, Andaman cluster, Nakhon Sawan province and Maha Sarakham province.

Dr. Kathryn Bowen, an expert from Australian National University, gave one key recommendation from lessons learnt to the health sector in Thailand with respect to collaboration and partnership, pointing out that health impacts from climate change arise from many sectors. Therefore, the fundamental importance is effective partnership.

Later, Dr. Phongtape Wiwatanadate LL.B., M.D., Ph.D. explained that The Southeast Asia START Regional Center and the data from ECHAMA4 forecast that the temperature will rise almost everywhere in Thailand from 34-36 degrees Celsius to 38-40 degrees Celsius. Recommendations on heat-health warning systems and mechanisms at different levels in Thailand were also given. At the end of the workshop, the participants demonstrated the integrated preparation plan to cope with health risks from heat waves, illness and death from flooding following the Health Development Plan.

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