Over 40 million doctors, nurses and other health professionals from 90 countries urged G20 leaders to put public health at the centre of their economic recovery packages to help avoid future crises and make the world more resilient to them.
In a letter to G20 leaders, they recommended prioritising investments in public health, clean air, clean water and a stable climate in the economic stimulus packages currently under consideration.
"Such investments would reduce air pollution and climate-warming emissions, which damage human health, build greater resilience to future pandemics, and simultaneously create more sustainable jobs," the letter says, according to a press release.
Covid-19 pandemic has exposed doctors, nurses and other health professionals to death, disease and mental distress at levels not seen in decades.
The letter says the scale of this pain could have been at least partially mitigated by adequate investments in pandemic preparedness, public health and environmental stewardship.
In the biggest health community mobilisation since the run-up to the 2015 Paris climate agreement, over 350 medical groups representing health professionals — including the World Medical Association, the International Council of Nurses, the Commonwealth Nurses and Midwives Federation, the World Organization of Family Doctors and the World Federation of Public Health Associations — signed the letter on behalf of their members, along with thousands of individual health professionals.
This letter, issued on Tuesday, is supported and promoted by the Global Climate and Health Alliance, Every Breath Matters, and the World Health Organization in service of the global medical and health community.
Dr Maria Neira, Director of Climate Change, Environment, and Health at the World Health Organization, said the call for a healthy long-term recovery from Covid-19 by millions of health professionals is inspiring.
Health professionals said that G20 leaders must involve their medical and scientific community in developing the stimulus packages which must also take into account medical and scientific assessments of how the measures will impact public health in the short- and long-term.
"Leaders must learn from these mistakes and recover in a way that makes the world stronger, healthier and more resilient," the health professionals say.
Dr Miguel R Jorge, President of World Medical Association, said we are seeing the immense loss of lives because of acting too late. "We cannot ignore that we need to build a system in place that will protect us from further damage ... We need a comprehensive approach, a healthy and green recovery and we need it now."
Health professionals say the pandemic has made it clear that the economy suffers when human health is compromised and suggested adopting a science-based approach to a healthy recovery from Covid-19.
Jeni Miller, Executive Director, Global Climate and Health Alliance, said a healthy recovery recognises that human health, economic health and the planet's health are closely connected.
"The pandemic has demonstrated that economic recovery must be achieved in ways that strengthen our global health resilience ... This is not the time to go back to business as usual, it is a time to take bold steps forward to create a future that protects both people and the planet," Miller said.
Prof K Srinath Reddy, President of the Public Health Foundation of India said the Covid-19 situation is a primer in environmental health lessons and a cautionary tale from which we must gain insights on how we reshape our future. He warned that if harmony with nature is broken, we are left with harm.
"Let us wisely co-exist to exist," he said.
Mary Robinson, Chair of The Elders, first woman President of Ireland, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said she fully supported the call by health professionals to re-build a healthy society by taking real and lasting action on the climate crisis.
"Covid-19 has shone a light on the interconnectedness of our shared vulnerabilities and demonstrated beyond doubt that public health and the protection of our planet are inextricably linked."
Fiona Armstrong, Founder and Executive Director, Climate and Health Alliance, Australia, said the governments must ensure their economic stimulus packages designed to lead us out of the Covid-19 health crisis don't lead us directly into a new one.
Annette Kennedy, President International Council of Nurses, said Covid-19 is providing the world with a unique opportunity to make changes that will benefit the planet and all the people on it.
"It may be the only chance we have for anything positive to come out of the Covid-19 pandemic, and to let this opportunity slip by would be unforgivable," Kennedy said. "Only by investing in both healthcare and the environment can we create a sustainable future."