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Health inequalities

Health inequalities are exacerbated by the climate crisis. People in poorer countries and communities bear the greatest burden of harms. And the drivers of the climate crisis and health inequalities are often the same.

The climate and ecological crises affects us all, but the impacts are not felt equally. Wider determinants of health such as housing, air pollution, the type of food available, transport options, local services, access to green space and education all have major impacts on our health, but they are unequally distributed. 

Many of the causes of climate change disproportionately affect marginalised communities, contributing to higher rates of health problems like heart and lung diseases.

For example:

• Higher levels of air pollution from burning fossil fuels,
• Energy inefficient homes that contribute to fuel poverty, wasted energy and bad health,
• Poorly planned cities and towns that make active travel (walking and cycling) unsafe or inaccessible
• Less access to green spaces, which can enable healthy outdoor exercise and are great for mental health.
• Overheating in built-up areas (often due to the urban heat island effect)
• Disadvantaged groups also have fewer resources to help them cope and adapt to our changing climate

The climate crisis can’t be addressed effectively without also tackling underlying socio-economic and racial inequalities. Read more about tackling the climate crisis and inequality together in this report chaired by Michael Marmot and Medact’s report on the public health case for a Green New Deal. Greener Practice members Emma Radcliffe and Farah Bede have written about what they have termed the inverse climate law in this BJGP article.

Reducing inequality topics