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Righting the balance: energy for health


"The current debate about the impact of human beings on our planet -- especially with respect to climate change -- is one of the most important issues of our time. But that debate is presently unbalanced and too narrow. It neglects a far larger set of issues focussed on energy -- and health." These are the opening words of The Lancet's editor Dr Richard Horton to launch The Lancet Series on Energy and Health.

Describing energy as a critical, yet hugely neglected, determinant of human health, Dr Horton calls in his Comment for action at personal, national and global level to address the issues. Some 2 billion people in the world currently suffer from lack of clean energy, and the Series calls for redistribution of energy resources to those in greatest need.

Dr Horton says: "Nationally, high-income and middle-income countries must move to a low-carbon, low-energy transportation system, including increased walking, cycling and public transport." His Comment also discusses the difficult choices ahead in relation to both fossil fuel usage and nuclear power.

The Series calls for more efficiently built and powered homes, and economic policies to substantially mitigate energy policies that are harmful to health. Dr Horton says: "In low-income settings, affordable technologies to reduce indoor air pollution are urgently required. We should all dramatically reduce our meat consumption."

At a global level, The Series calls for control of greenhouse gases, and the need for international agencies to make far stronger links between development, energy and health. Energy security is a foreign policy issue and a source of international conflict and tension, and such political instabilities can threaten the foundations of national health systems. Dr Horton says: "Energy and its relation to health should become an explicit part of foreign-policy thinking."

He concludes: "The Lancet's steering group on Energy and Health has devised a tentative set of indicators to measure, monitor, and track progress on energy and health globally. We invite the international community to join our call to advance this manifesto not only for the third of the planet's population who live in energy poverty, but also for the totality of the earth's vulnerable biodiversity."


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