WHO/WMO Joint Workplan and Integrated health Services

Co-Sponsors: WMO / WHO

Location: Geneva, Switzerland

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) joint expert team on Integrated Health Information Science and Services met in Geneva on January 21-23 to advance the implementation of the WHO-WMO Collaboration Framework Agreement on Health, Climate and Environment; and the Eighteenth World Meteorological Congress (Cg-18) Resolution 33 on Advancing Integrated Health Services. This 2.5 day meeting served to:

  1. Gain a better understanding of health needs, applications, and operational      mechanisms for implementing Integrated Health Information Science and Services;
  2. Review the current joint work plan and inform the roadmap for the joint Implementation plan;
  3. Review the TOR of the proposed SERCOM- Health Study Group;
  4. Recommend mechanisms of implementation and oversight to WHO and WMO.

The expert meeting brought together diverse experts from the health sector, the meteorological and atmospheric sciences who represent research, operational, and policy interests. Progress to develop and provide climate services, predominantly vis-a-vis the Global Framework for Climate Services since 2009 was reviewed. Outcomes of monitoring efforts reveal that the Health Sector remains an underserved societal sector for climate and weather services. The WMO Cg-18 Resolution 33 on Advancing Integrated Health Services provides a new opportunity to address the needs of national health partners, by strengthening the mandate of NMHS to collaborate with the health sector; to strengthen operational and coordination mechanisms; to enhance tailored research and data services; to develop technical norms and standards for operationalization, and to develop institutional and human resource capacity. Participants recognized that investments to enhance and tailor such science and services that build resilience of the health sector to climate, extreme weather, and hazardous air quality are currently unharnessed; but could open important pathways to contribute to meeting multiple targets of the SDGs, the Sendai Framework, and the Paris Agreement. 

In line with the emphasis on providing climate services that respond to the needs articulated by end users, presentations and input were provided by the WHO leads responsible for health adaptation to climate change, health preparedness for emergencies, response to disease outbreaks, water sanitation and hygiene, air quality, solar radiation protection, and the office of the WHO Chief Scientist, as well as from National Health Agencies of the USA and UK, and the health lead of the African Academy of Sciences. 

The meeting also provided for the first time a synthesis of the type of scientific cooperation and services that NMHS already provides to the health sector. Presentations were made from Canada, Finland, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Peru, USA, UK, and the Regional Climate Center at the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology reflecting a broad scope and breadth of expertise in the WMO community for providing operational health services and supporting health research.  These services include heat health warning systems, cold warning systems, pollen advisories, UV index forecasts and services, air quality monitoring and forecasting, harmful algal bloom forecasts and recreational water safety advisories, cholera monitoring and forecasting, seasonal advisories, and a broad range of support for infectious diseases research. Participants also learned about innovative approaches to working with the health sector, from integrated data platforms and APIs, to mobile applications, and multi-sectoral integrated partnerships.

The expert group enthusiastically supported the proposed Service Commission Study Group for Health and suggested modifications to the TOR, as well as recommendations for the WMO Research Board, and the WHO and WMO Secretariats.

Experts converged on several key messages for the advancement of the implementation plan:

First, critical health risks caused by population exposure to climate change, extreme weather, and environmental conditions are complex, interactive, and cascading. Success of this implementation plan will require integrated and hybrid mechanisms that can leverage the combined science, intelligence and capacity of many relevant sectors and actors. An integrated framework should be developed to clarify, enhance shared understandings, and educate key actors on the multiple driving forces and complex interactions of risk conditions are occurring, across timescales (e.g. heat), involve intertwined technical domains (e.g. weather and air pollution; heatwaves, drought and fire); involve multiple sectors, (water, urban planning); and geographies (e.g transboundary fire, heat, or drought). The expert team recommended the policy and technical cooperation mechanisms to be established between WHO and WMO to advance this plan, should to the extent possible, reflect and encourage integration to encourage more comprehensive risk management and capacity building at national, regional, and global levels.

Second, the health sector is an evidence-based domain grounded in research and evaluation. Entry points for the health community to collaborate with and benefit from climatological, meteorological and environmental information, continue to be analytical in nature, vis-a-vis strong foundations in research and integrated data and information platforms for risk monitoring. Success of this plan to facilitate the generation of evidence, requires both WMO and WHO to strategically address information and data requirements, and focus on strengthening research applications and evaluations. The Expert Team recommended outreach be made to the WMO Research Board to consider health research and information needs; and to recognize the need for coordination/harmonization or even hybrid mechanisms be established between the Research Board and SERCOM on matters of health. 

Third, the successful implementation of this plan requires stronger joint planning, execution and joined-up expertise of health, climate, and environmental sciences and practice. The Expert Team recommended all advisory and implementation mechanisms of this workplan should be joint between the health and meteorological sector. Noting, WHO and WMO are substantially different in organization and structures, and hybrid mechanisms combining government, specialized agency staff, and academia with designated roles are to be expected in the implementation of this work. Implementation structures will have to be considered on a case by case basis.

Fourth, to leverage the existing activities and momentum currently occurring in an ad-hoc manner, dedicated resources and support functions are required from both WHO and WMO to enable the strategic and coordination implementation of this plan. The Expert Team recommended strengthening the coordination and technical support functions for Integrated Health Information Science and Services, including the WHO-WMO Joint Office for Climate and Health.