UKHACC #RideforTheirLives 13.10.2022
Health leaders cycle to inspire action on air pollution and the climate crisis
(13 October) Today, thirty health leaders including Presidents, Vice Presidents, Chairs, Directors, and Advisors from a number of organisations are cycling across London as part of Ride for Their Lives, a global campaign to inspire action on air pollution and the wider climate crisis.
The London cycle, which has been coordinated by the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change, brings the health leaders representing different areas of healthcare together to highlight the impacts of air pollution and climate change on every area of health. The professions represented include medicine, surgery, psychiatry, paediatrics, general practice, pharmacy, chest and stroke physicians, students, and health editors.
Chair of the UK Health Alliance, Richard Smith, said: “The climate emergency is a health crisis. We want to draw attention to the threat to health from the planetary crisis but also to show that taking actions we need to take could improve health. Health professionals have an important voice in advocating for action to address the planetary crisis and we hope this cycle will inspire others to act.”
The 15km cycle route will pass multiple health organisations and hospitals in London. After the cycle, the health leaders will join a panel discussion, facilitated by former British Medical Journal editor Fiona Godlee, at the Royal College of Physicians of London.
The cycle is part of Ride for Their Lives – a global campaign to protect children from the disastrous effects of air pollution and the climate crisis. Initiated and led by paediatric healthcare professionals, it aims to inspire action on these issues and unite the voice of the world healthcare community. In 2021, children's hospital staff and health sector leaders cycled from Geneva via London to UN Conference on Climate Change, COP26 in Glasgow, to deliver their message to world leaders. In the run-up to the COP27, this November, healthcare providers are organising a series of rides across the UK in London, Brighton, Oxford, Nottingham, Derby, and Newcastle - as well as in other European countries and in North and South America.
Dr. Fiona Godlee, former editor of the BMJ said: “We have to act urgently as a world to avert catastrophic consequences for human health and survival. This is going to require radical change to every aspect of how we live and work. Health professionals have a huge part to play in highlighting the dangers of the climate emergency and showing the benefits to health if we act now. We can only do this if we work together, and Ride for Their Lives is a symbol of that vital collaboration, both in the UK and across the world. We want to inspire people to get informed about climate change and to get active in whatever capacity they can, as individuals, professionals, leaders, and citizens. We can't expect others to act if we do not.”
Professor Ramesh Arasaradnam, Academic Vice President of Royal College of Physicians, said:
“The Royal College of Physicians is proud to support UKHACC in its initiative to raise awareness of the impact of climate change on health. We have already seen the impact of air pollution on increasing the number of deaths. As physicians, we are acutely aware that adverse changes in the climate directly affect the health and well-being of our patients. It also further widens health disparities. Hence it is a problem that we all need to work at to find a solution''.
Mehajabeen Farid, Co-Chair of Students for Global Health, said: “At Students for Global Health, we are very concerned about the devastating impacts of climate change, however, hope is our most powerful tool against the status quo, and taking part in an event like this helps me stay hopeful. It’s really good to see people from different parts of the health community come together to bring light to the massive threat of climate change on health, which disproportionately impacts the most vulnerable communities, in the UK and around the world. We must continue to come together to take action for a better world for current and future generations.”
Dr Adrian James, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “The disruption to life posed by climate change presents a serious threat to mental health. Health is fundamentally linked to the quality of our environment, whether that's about cleaner air, access to green spaces or protection from extreme weather events. Storms, floods, air pollution, wildfires and droughts are causing dramatic changes to how and where people live, disproportionately affecting vulnerable groups including those with pre-existing mental illness and children.
“The impact of our actions today will be felt by generations to come. We must act now to stop further damage to the environment, reduce our carbon emissions, and prevent a global health catastrophe.
Many of the actions we need to take, such as using sustainable transport, are good for the environment and have other beneficial effects, which is why I am so pleased to be taking part in the cycle ride.”
Anna Russell, Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability Director at Bupa, a long-term sponsor, said: “These rides do so much good by raising awareness of the climate crisis. As a healthcare company, we have a responsibility to act now to tackle this crisis. That’s why at Bupa, we have made it part of our mission to minimise the impact of healthcare on the planet, find more sustainable healthcare solutions, and in doing so, help people live longer, healthier, happier lives, and make a better world.”
Ride for Their Lives is calling on health providers and organisations to sign the Healthy Climate Prescription letter, and support the call for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty - both call on governments to deliver on climate action.
On October 18, healthcare organisations set off on a two-week ride to take the letter and call for the treaty from Geneva, through Italy to Naples, connecting hospitals along the way to deliver their messages to COP27 in Egypt.
Notes for editors:
For more information, photos, interviews with spokespeople, and for media interested to attend the event please contact:
Jo@climateacceptancestudios.com and 07969 083371
Photos after the ride will be found here
UKHACC ride schedule
8.30 Participants meet at Royal College of Physicians, 11 St Andrews Pl, London NW1 4LE - for interview and photo opportunities before and after the ride, including the panel event
9.30 Riders will set off on 15km cycle tour of health organisations including the Royal College of General Practitioners, British Medical Association, British Thoracic Society, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, Academy of Royal Colleges and the Royal Society of Medicine - cyclists include representatives of medical colleges and societies.
11.45 Panel discussion and Q&A Session at RCP, facilitated by Fiona Godlee
13.30 Event close
More information on other rides can be found here, and include:
Geneva to Naples Ride 18 Oct - 2 Nov
Children’s healthcare providers and organisations such as WHO and the International Hospital Federation join a two-week ride from Geneva to Naples.
COP27 November 6th - 18th November
1 pm (GMT+2) 11 am (GMT) November 9, One-hour RFTL session in WHO’s Health Pavilion in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt
November 12, RTFL will hold a London-based event calling for action with riders and campaigners.
Ride for Their Lives was launched in October 2021 when children's hospital staff and health sector leaders cycled from Geneva via London to COP26 in Glasgow. They delivered both the Healthy Climate Prescription letter and the World Health Organisation’s COP26 Special Report on Climate Change and Health to government delegates from both the COP26 and the COP27 presidencies. A legacy of the ride is an active committed network of healthcare providers determined to inspire action on the climate emergency and save children's lives. The riders are entirely self-funded showing their dedication to inspire action.
This year, Ride for their Lives is calling on health providers and organisations to sign the Healthy Climate Prescription letter - already signed by organisations representing 46 million health workers worldwide - and to join the call already made by WHO, UKHACC, almost 200 other health associations, and 1,400 health workers for governments to urgently develop and implement a global Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty to end global dependence on fossil fuels, to protect the health of people around the world.
Ride for their Lives is grateful to the World Health Organization (WHO), Global Climate and Health Alliance (GCHA), UK Health Alliance on Climate Change (UKHACC), Bupa, and many other organisations for their participation in the campaign.
The UK Health Alliance on Climate Change is an alliance of 35 UK-based organisations that collectively represent almost one million health professionals. The Alliance brings together health professionals to advocate for just response to the climate crisis, promote the health benefits that flow from those responses, and empower members and health professionals to make changes in their professional and personal lives to respond to the crisis.
Bupa’s Environment and Climate Action: Bupa is a sponsor of Ride for their Lives. Bupa's purpose is helping people live longer, healthier, happier lives and making a better world. For 75 years, we’ve been taking care of people’s health. Today, we understand that to continue to do so, we must take care of the health of the planet too, because healthy people need a healthy planet. It's our mission to minimise the impact of healthcare on the environment, to find more sustainable healthcare solutions, and to create healthier, greener spaces where people can thrive. Underpinning this ambition, we have set science-based targets to become a Net Zero business by 2040, to help make a better for our colleagues, customers, communities, and wider society.
Climate Acceptance Studios believes that who is delivering messages on the climate and nature crisis is as important as the message itself. We exist to support the most trusted and influential voices in society as they raise the alarm. We develop campaigns, such as Ride for their Lives, and produce content designed to foster collaboration between different groups already focused on the problem and inspire more to action. We are focused for 2022 and 2023 on the international healthcare community.
Air pollution and the climate emergency:
The Royal College for Paediatric and Children’s Health states that almost all children (more than 99%) are exposed to one or more climate and environmental risks to their health. UNICEF estimates that approximately one billion children - nearly half - are at ‘extremely high risk’ of impacts from the climate crisis.
WHO states that air pollution is "one of the biggest environmental threats to human health, alongside climate change” and almost 99% of the world’s population live in places where air pollution levels exceed WHOs guidelines.
The causes of air pollution are often the same as the causes of the climate emergency – the majority of air pollution is from burning fossil fuels for power, transport, and industry. And because the causes are largely the same, the solutions can also be the same - renewable energy, electric mobility, public transport, and more walking and cycling.
Globally, air pollution kills an estimated 7 million people a year. In the UK it causes an estimated 28,000-36,000 premature deaths a year - including that of 9-year-old Ella Kissi-Debrah, who died in 2013. In a landmark case in December 2020 the coroner named air pollution as a cause of death.
Air pollution contributes to respiratory conditions like asthma, as well as lung cancer and heart disease. Evidence is emerging that it also contributes to dementia, low birth weight and type 2 diabetes. Increasingly it is being linked to mental illness as well as physical illness. Recently the World Health Organisation tightened its guidelines on air pollution levels, describing it as “on a par with other major global health risks such as unhealthy diet and tobacco smoking”. As with the climate emergency, kids are worst affected. They are closer to exhaust fumes, their lungs and brains are still developing, and they breathe faster.
Poorer children in urban settings are most exposed, increasing the impact of social inequalities.