Climate change, environment risks, carbon footprint etc. are the buzzwords of our times and as widely popular as they have become, DIWAS hopes to break this broad topic into small sized chunks especially in the context of its impact of women’s health, particularly Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs).

ECO INFLUENCE

What constitutes environmental risks?

Air pollution alone caused 5.6 million deaths from NCDs in 2016, globally. Household air pollution is a serious health hazard in India due to the burning of solid biomass fuel and second-hand smoke. This physical environment is more likely to be populated by women and children who are likely to be more exposed to harmful smoke caused by cooking, heating, and lighting with unclean fuels and inefficient technologies. Stroke, Ischaemic heart disease, Lung cancer and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease are directly related to household air pollution.

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Over recent years we have all been hearing and reading about Lead in paints. Research shows that exposure to lead in paints, a variety of consumer products, air and water have been linked to an increased occurrence of cardiovascular and kidney disease.

 

Urbanization and upward mobility have also contributed to increased risk of NCDs, particularly in women. One of the predominant changes due to urbanization is where women are disproportionately burdened with work both outside and inside of their homes and bear the brunt of changing lifestyles. Our dependence on motor vehicles has increased with urbanization, thereby increasing our dependence on fossil fuels, which in turn impacts climate. Urbanization has also led to reduced green spaces, busier lives, increased time spent on motorized commute and reduced physical activity and mobility. These changes adversely affect the health of women and girls. 

 

The health impact of many environmental risks are yet to be studied and what we know today is only the tip of the iceberg. 

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The impact of global environmental changes on health have been widely studied, and recent research indicates that climate change has a huge impact on not just infectious diseases (i.e. COVID, Flu, Chicken Pox) but NCDs (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, Cardio Vascular Disease, Cancers, Diabetes, Chronic Kidney Disease etc.) as well. Let’s try and understand the interdependency of environmental risk factors, and the increasing burden of NCDs across the globe.

Environmental risks to health include air pollution, radiation, noise, work environment and hazards and overall climate change. When someone says diabetes, what comes to mind are lifestyle changes such as an improved diet, physical exercise etc. and you are not wrong. Thus far, the conversation around NCDs has typically focused on prevention and management through improved lifestyle, better nutrition and physical exercise, however more importance is now given to understand how the external physical factors also contribute to the exacerbation of NCDs.

The prevalence of NCDs is a significant contributor to health inequity, particularly to women and girls. Understanding and acting on environmental risks is the first step towards reducing this inequity, and we at DIWAS strongly believe that a healthy and aware woman leads to a healthy family.

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Call to action

The goal of DIWAS is prevention and management of NCDs in women and girls. Let’s pledge to improve our immediate environment one step, one home at a time. Let’s take stock of what we can do as an individual to reduce our carbon footprint. Every small step we take will be a significant step towards reducing the risk of NCDs in ourselves and the larger community.