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The ESEC advocates a national public health-environment policy involving local authorities

7 million people die prematurely worldwide each year due to air pollution; 30% of emerging infectious diseases are attributed to the degradation of ecosystems by human activities, recalls the Economic, Social and Environment Council (CESE). “The consequences of environmental degradation on health are getting worse”, warns the Council. And, if the entire population is affected, the most precarious populations are the most exposed, but also those who have the most difficulty in accessing care and health prevention actions.

Despite these observations, the action of the public authorities “remains fragmented and sectoral”, deplores the ESEC. Also, he pleads to go beyond the approach to health based on care and disease, in favor of global preventive action: health, environmental, but also economic and social.

In its opinion entitled “For a national public health-environment policy at the heart of the territories”, adopted on May 24, 2022, the ESEC therefore makes 20 recommendations “in order to move towards a health-environment policy based on the precautionary principle , guaranteeing everyone the right to live in an environment that respects health”. These are organized around three axes.

Here are the ESEC’s main recommendations for a national health-environment policy.

Axis 1: Consolidate and reorganize the relationships between knowledge and decision-making

  • Adopt a coordinated health-environment research strategy, by strengthening and sustaining the human and financial resources allocated to research and guaranteeing its independence.
  • Accelerate the cross-referencing, compatibility and sharing of environmental and health data, including local ones, by integrating contributions from the public and associations.
  • Adopt a new approach to risk for public decision-making, based on the precautionary principle: moving from a substance-by-substance, use-by-use approach to a generic approach identifying the dangers to be avoided, the most worrying for human health or for ecosystems.

Axis 2: Make health-environment a central and cross-cutting objective of public policies

  • Adopt an orientation law in order to set France’s objectives in terms of health and the environment, to organize its governance and to set the main principles of its financing.
  • Create an inter-ministerial delegate for health-environment to organize the transversal implementation – in all public policies – of health-environment.
  • Generalize the measurement of the impact of policies on health-environment, based on indicators such as life expectancy in good health and the consequences of public policies on the poorest 20%.
  • Putting back on the political agenda the issue of innovative health-environment financing, which could take the form of taxation of activities that have a negative impact on ecosystems, the proceeds of which would be allocated to the reduction of pollution in ecosystems and the compensation of unequal effects.
  • Create an independent authority which could be seized of infringements of the constitutional right to live in a balanced environment respectful of health, on the model of the Defender of Rights.

Axis 3: Territories and health-environment: empowering local authorities and citizens

  • Dedicate the contribution of local authorities to health-environment, in the General Code of Local Authorities (CGCT), by giving them the means to identify and achieve their objectives (integration into article L. 1111-2 of the CGCT) .
  • Consolidate the Regional Health-Environment Plans (PRSE) and make them more operational: definition of concrete objectives, establishment of progress measurement indicators, appointment of those responsible for their implementation and funding.
  • Integrate the health-environment impact into any health impact study and during the environmental assessment, for any planning or development project (housing, transportation and economic development).
  • Involve all the people concerned in the development, implementation and evaluation of public policies: use participatory approaches for the development of shared diagnoses of local issues and the construction of responses with the population.

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