Air pollution is not just a health issue, it’s a societal issue
Why Global Action Plan is partnering with Health Equals to take on the air pollution crisis.
The air we breathe is an environmental determinant of health. Poor air quality continues to put considerable strain on society and on our health services – it is the largest environmental risk to health in the UK, as it can shorten our lives, cause conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, dementia and strokes, and put us more at risk from diseases such COVID-19. Air pollution can harm every organ in our body and affects us from our first breath to our last, and even beforehand in the womb.
Almost every part of the UK is in breach of World Health Organisation guidelines for air quality, meaning that air pollution is a health risk for us all. Air pollution is also an equity issue, as it affects some communities more than others, especially children, older people, those with pre-existing health conditions, people from minority ethnic backgrounds, and people living on a low income.
By tackling air pollution, we will not only improve health outcomes and reduce health inequalities, but this will also have positive co-benefits for addressing climate change.
Yet air pollution is a solvable problem. In the UK, the main source of both air pollution and carbon emissions is the combustion of fossil fuels. The primary source of both is transport, and industry, agriculture and domestic burning (e.g. log burners) are also significant sources. By tackling air pollution, we will not only improve health outcomes and reduce health inequalities, but this will also have positive co-benefits for addressing climate change.
The levels of many air pollutants are decreasing in the UK, but more needs to be done, and quicker. Government ambition to tackle air pollution remains low, with recently set air pollution targets not aligning with World Health Organisation guidelines nor proposed European levels.
We know that the public wants clean air, and this post will work with experts to develop a compelling set of policy priorities to achieve this. You can visit Global Action Plan’s website to learn more about the post.
We are therefore excited to be hosting a Health Equals partnership policy post at Global Action Plan, to be able to bolster the clean air movement’s campaigning for more ambitious action from the current government and those of the future. We know that the public wants clean air, and this post will work with experts to develop a compelling set of policy priorities to achieve this. You can visit Global Action Plan’s website to learn more about the post.
Being part of both the Health Equals membership and the Healthy Air Coalition broadens the range of tactics available to create change, with exciting synergies between the other two Health Equals policy posts on employment and housing. Developing shared policy calls in collaboration with those most affected by air pollution inequalities, amplified by members of both coalitions, helps to move clean air from being ‘just’ a health or ‘just’ an environmental issue, to one that creates positive benefits for everyone in society.
Given the urgency to improve public health outcomes to reduce the pressure on health and social care services, and the cross-party agreement that air pollution needs to be tackled, we look forward to creating some buzz around clean air through the Health Equals clean air spotlight campaign, and the wider clean air movement’s policy and engagement work. This new post will help ensure that salient and implementable clean air policy asks are included in party manifestos for the next UK general election, and crucially are then delivered rapidly upon.
Clean air is an essential building block of good health and wellbeing. Air pollution is a societal problem but is one we are hopeful can be improved and we are excited and grateful for this innovative policy partnership with Health Equals to help drive this change.