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Vital Strategies Calls for Urgent Action to Prevent Deaths Caused by Unhealthy Environments

Vital Strategies applauds World Health Organization (WHO) for releasing two reports this week that reveal the grave extent of preventable sickness and deaths among children from environmental risks such as indoor and outdoor air pollution, secondhand smoke, unsafe drinking water and sanitation practices. Based on these perils, the reports show that an alarming 1.7 million child deaths occur due to these environmental hazards.

In response to these studies, Jose Luis Castro, President and CEO of Vital Strategies, said:

“The fact that 1.7 million kids die each year due to air pollution and other environmental dangers is unacceptable, and is a huge wake-up call to swiftly and comprehensively act to combat this threat. Children are the most vulnerable among us, since they are physiologically more susceptible to the harmful effects of secondhand smoke, air pollution, toxins, and contaminated food and water.

“The recent WHO reports and other analyses remind us that a comprehensive, global strategy to this calamity is needed. Isolated, piecemeal fixes won’t prevent future fatalities caused by environmental degradation, since neither air nor water respects political boundaries. Low-income countries can’t bear the costs of harm mitigation alone, and regulations vary between local and national governing bodies. Instead, policymakers must fulfill their obligations under the United Nation’s Strategic Development Goals, as well as their civic duties as public servants, to prevent needless deaths of their own citizens. By accelerating investments that can amplify health improvements in urban areas, we can begin to change course. This includes coordinating local, state and national responses to unhealthy air, water and habitat, and improving enforcement of rules and laws.”

In 2016, Vital Strategies created a new Environmental Health division aimed to apply the tools of public health to work with governments to reduce air pollution, mitigate climate change, and improve water, sanitation and transportation systems.

Vital Strategies is also continuing its leadership in tobacco control to reduce smoking rates and lessen the harm caused by secondhand smoke, a danger that WHO cites as a major cause of respiratory infection-related child fatalities.

Additionally, Vital Strategies is working to improve indoor air quality through the availability and use of clean household energy sources and mitigating transboundary haze caused by unsustainable agricultural practices and vehicle emissions.

About Vital Strategies:

Vital Strategies is a global health organization that seeks to accelerate progress on the world’s most pressing health problems. 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 comment on the information included in this statement, please contact Jon Steed, Vital Strategies, at +1.917.710.2846 or