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Clinicians Mobilize Against Air Pollution, an Invisible and Deadly Health Crisis

(New York, USA) – Ninety percent of the world’s population breathes polluted air and air pollution is the leading environmental cause of death and disease. This mainly affects those in low- and middle-income countries where rapid urbanization is outpacing air pollution control measures.

Today, Vital Strategies launched Inspire, a coalition that mobilizes clinicians, public health professionals and organizations across the globe to advocate for aggressive clean air policies that can protect people from the harmful effects of air pollution.

“Six million people die every year because of poor air quality,” said Dr. Neil Schluger, Senior Advisor for Science at Vital Strategies. “Yet too many governments are failing to address this problem as a public health crisis. That’s why Inspire is so important. Every day clinicians see the harms of air pollution—people suffering with acute asthma, heart attacks, strokes and more. There’s a limit to what we can do to help individuals reduce their exposure to harmful air pollution. Inspire offers a framework for health advocates to push governments to address the root causes of air pollution and advocate for cleaner air policies. We have to mobilize because the problem is growing and the need for action is urgent.”

Inspire’s goals align with the World Health Organization’s road map for enhanced global action on air pollution, and include:

– Improve awareness in the global health community, including clinicians, public health practitioners and scientists, about air pollution and its health effects, sources and solutions, as well as harm-reduction measures for individuals.

– Increase involvement of clinicians and clinical organizations in advocacy for clean air policies.

– Establish a global network of informed health-oriented champions and speakers on air pollution and health.

– Grow public awareness of the dangers of air pollution.

– Exert political pressure on governments to encourage aggressive clean air policies.

Members of the Inspire coalition will help bring air pollution to the forefront of local, national and global health and climate agendas through education and advocacy.

“There is overwhelming evidence that air pollution adversely affects health across the life course,” said Jonathan Grigg, Professor of Paediatric Respiratory and Environmental Medicine at Queen Mary University of London. “But progress in reducing exposure remains painfully slow. Health professionals, with their detailed knowledge of the diseases associated with exposure to air pollution, have an important role to play in communicating the importance of exposure-mitigation strategies both to policymakers and to the public who need to pay for these strategies. Inspire aims to support local advocates with medical expertise in delivering this important message.”

According to the World Health Organization, 4.3 million deaths occur each year from exposure to household (indoor) air pollution and 3.7 million deaths each year are attributed to ambient (outdoor) air pollution, at an avoidable high cost to communities especially in low- and middle-income countries.

Elvis Ndikum Achiri, Advocacy Officer for the WHO Regional Office for Africa, who is based in Cameroon, said, “We call for the universal recognition that clean air is a human right. We have a right to breathe clean air and a right to know the quality of our air. Advocates are the voice of the people, especially the vulnerable at global and country level. Inspire is a solution for clean air and health for all.”

“Air pollution is one of the most important preventable causes of ill health and death,” said Dr. Obianuju Ozoh, pulmonologist and Senior Lecturer at the College of Medicine of the University of Lagos. “We all have a role to play in curbing the burden and impact of air pollution on our health. Let us challenge ourselves to make each breath count toward better health, longer lives and better days.”

Inspire is a collaboration incubated by the global health organization Vital Strategies. The initiative was launched by members of the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, Working Group on Air Pollution and Lung Health.

To join, and for more information, please visit 

Attendees of the 49th Union World Conference on Lung Health can visit booth 35 to learn more, and are encouraged to join representatives at the “Communities and Clinicians – Partners In Clean Air Advocacy” session at the community space, De Ontmoeting 2, on Oct. 26, 2018 from 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

About Vital Strategies

Vital Strategies is a global health organization that believes every person should be protected by a strong public health system. Our programs reach into 73 countries and help prevent death and illness from noncommunicable disease, reduce harm caused by environmental factors, and support cities as engines for public health. We consult with governments on issues including restricting junk food marketing to kids, promoting smoke-free laws, improving indoor and outdoor air quality, and strengthening road safety. These are protections that can add up to millions of lives saved. Our team combines evidence-based strategies with innovation to help develop and implement sound public health policies, manage programs efficiently, strengthen data systems, conduct research and design strategic communication campaigns for policy and behavior change. To find out more, please visit or Twitter @VitalStrat.

For further information or to arrange an interview with a public health expert, please contact