Coinciding with the United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) that’s taking place in Glasgow, leading Philippine life insurer Pru Life UK released an independent study on the impact of climate change to Filipinos’ health and wellbeing and financial security, calling on various stakeholder actions to build adaptation and resilience to this global concern.
The pioneering study explores the health impacts of climate change and their potential pressures on the financial security and wellbeing of Filipino families, and includes recommendations for action. The study is designed to serve as a guide for the government and the business in developing mitigation strategies and solutions.
The paper is entitled – “How will climate change affect the health of Filipinos in the next decade?”, by planetary health expert Dr. Ramon Lorenzo “Renzo”’ R. Guinto as the lead author. The author was recently appointed as a member of the National Panel of Technical Experts of the Philippine Climate Change Commission.
“As the Philippines’ leading life insurance company, Pru Life UK believes that it is important to start considering the health impacts from climate change in our business processes, for us to be able to develop more responsive products and expand access of Filipinos to protection despite the anticipated risks,” says Eng Teng Wong, Pru Life UK President and CEO.
Life insurance provides a financial safety net from incidents that are closely connected to health and wellbeing. A key finding in the paper is that there’s no disease group that is immune to the effects of climate change.
As climate change worsens, the health of populations will be in greater danger. Climate change affects health both directly, for instance, among elderly who experience heat stroke due to exposure to extreme heat, or indirectly, when climate change alters the environmental conditions for mosquito-borne diseases like dengue and malaria. In fact, there is no disease group that is immune to the effects of climate change, according to the paper.
The study found that in the Philippines, some disease conditions are expected to increase in a world of climate change:
• Heat-related illnesses such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke
• Vector-borne diseases such as dengue and malaria
• Emerging infectious diseases with pandemic potential such as COVID-19
• Cardiorespiratory diseases due to air and other forms of pollution produced by fossil fuels – the same culprits of the climate crisis
• Forced displacement of communities due to typhoons, storm surges, and coastal flooding
• The co-occurrence of undernutrition and obesity resulting from climate-unfriendly food systems
• Mental health conditions emanating from both abrupt disasters and slow-onset environmental change
“With this paper as a guide, we commit to embed sustainability and climate change variables in our operations and to continue to develop customer-centric products for greater insurance protection that can help improve health and financial protection and reduce future climate-related losses in every Filipino family. We want to help every Filipino mitigate financial risks and provide protection from any financial setback from climate change” Mr. Wong added.
The release of the study is aligned with Pru Life UK’s purpose of helping Filipinos get the most out of life alongside one of the three pillars of our environment, social and governance (ESG) strategy which is making health and financial security accessible to all.
The paper offers these five most urgent actions that need to be undertaken to mitigate the anticipated health impacts from climate change:
- Climate change must be viewed as a public health issue now. Climate change is not anymore just an issue about dehydrated polar bears or melting ice caps – at its very core, it is an issue of human health and survival. COVID-19 is a reminder of the importance of good health and the need for every sector to work together towards improving health for all – including in the context of a changing climate.
- Rapid decarbonization to stabilize the climate will be good not just for the planet but for people’s health too. To keep the increase of global average temperature below 2 degrees Celsius, preferably 1.5, accelerated climate mitigation must be pursued by transitioning to clean renewable energy, green and equitable transport, sustainable and healthy food systems – which are beneficial not only for the environment but also for public health.
- Building societal resilience to climate change and its health effects is also an urgent priority. The Philippine society, including the national health system, must pursue climate adaptation to enhance resilience to climate change, disasters, and myriad health impacts – while taking advantage of system strengthening measures used for COVID-19. “Climate-smart health care” – which is the convergence of climate-resilient and low-carbon health systems – must be the framework for the health sector’s agenda in the coming years.
- Communicate climate and health knowledge to raise awareness and equip them with tools to contribute to both mitigation and adaptation. Vulnerable communities, children and young people, leaders and professionals, frontliners such as health professionals – everyone must receive climate and health education that will usher positive behavior change while fighting “fake news.”
- Financial security at all levels is a climate adaptation measure. The impact of climate change on physical and mental health will eventually affect the financial health of individuals, households, and communities. Stable incomes, health insurance, financial aid, and universal health care are all financial solutions to protect Filipinos from shocks related to the climate emergency.
The paper was launched via a PRUWise Healthscape PH webinar, Pru Life UK’s banner multi sectoral health dialogue platform. Aside from Dr. Guinto, among the speakers and panel reactors during the program included Andrew Wong, Chief Health Officer of Prudential Corporation Asia, Pru Life UK’s regional head office; Eng Teng Wong, Pru Life UK President and CEO, and Dr. Jaime Galvez-Tan, former Secretary of Health.
To download a digital copy of the White Paper, visit: www.prulifeuk.com.ph