Health economics on air pollution substantiate policies that save lives and the environment

Recent WHO estimates confirmed that air pollution is the world’s largest single environmental health risk, attributable to 7 million premature deaths globally in 2012 as a result of the joint effects of outdoor and household air pollution, with 582 000 of those deaths occurring in the European region.

Technology, science and epidemiology have advanced greatly in their capacity to expose the true nature and extent of the problem, as well as the co-benefits provided by air pollution reduction policies to other areas, such as mitigation of climate change. In this context, an international group of experts on air pollution, economics, policy making and communication participated in a symposium at WHO’s European Centre for Environment and Health in Bonn, Germany, from 27–28 November 2014 to discuss and refine a joint WHO/OECD publication draft entitled “Health Economics and Air Pollution”.

The publication will contain health economics revealing the costs to society from air pollution-related health impacts for use in policy making at regional level.  Meeting participants analyzed a range of issues, including choice of economic tools and methodologies; gaps and challenges to address; scope, trends and emphases; and communication aspects.

A policy brief of “Health Economics and Air Pollution” will be available in spring 2015, and WHO will continue joint work with OECD in this environmental health area.

For further information, please contact Frank George, Technical Officer on Environmental Health and Economics, georgef@euro.who.int.