Tip Sheet on Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA): Health and Nutrition
Main recommendations extracted from the SEA of the Feminist International Assistance Policy (FIAP) for the Human Dignity Action Area (Health and Nutrition)
In compliance with the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals, GAC has produced a strategic environmental assessment (SEA) of its Feminist International Assistance Policy (FIAP) and its action area policies. The purpose of the SEA is to assess the potential environmental effects, either positive or negative, associated with the FIAP and its action area policies and to incorporate the results in the development of these policies in order to reduce potential adverse environmental effects and enhance environmental and developmental outcomes.
Summary of the Health and Nutrition Action Area priority pathways:
Canada’s paths of action are to increase access to health services, to increase access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights, and to improve nutrition for the poorest and most marginalized.
What are the environmental sustainability issues and linkages?
- Air, water and soil pollution impact the lives of hundreds of millions of people around the world each year, disproportionally the poor and the vulnerable, especially children, infants and foetuses.
- Indoor and outdoor air pollution has become the world’s largest single environmental health riskFootnote 1.
- Poor water quality is also a major cause of disease.
- Health outcomes are also directly affected by climate change. Extreme climate events, such as heat waves, and natural disasters can cause significant impacts on people’s health and on health services (e.g. drug shortages, breakdown of health services, stress, conflict and violence). Climate change is also affecting the distribution of vector-borne diseases. Integrating environmental factors in health surveillance systems is important for tracking these changes and informing health plans.
- Safe and healthy food production systems and markets can do a lot to improve nutrition. While modern, mechanized agricultural production systems (intensive tillage, monoculture, use of high amounts of inorganic fertilizer and chemical pesticides, genetically engineered crops, etc.) have considerably increased overall food production, these practices have also contributed to deforestation, environmental degradation, GHG emissions, loss of genetic diversity, overuse and contamination of water, soil erosion and nutrient loss, and the possible contamination of food supplies.
- Artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) is plagued with development issues, including environmental impacts on health especially in artisanal gold mining where mercury and cyanide is used. The conditions in which men, women, and children are working are generally poor.
What are the potential environmental effects of the proposed pathways?
- The highest potential environmental risk lies with the management of biomedical waste and the construction and renovation of health facilities. Increasing health services will generate more wastes, including toxic substances that need to be managed appropriately. If not properly located and/or ill-designed, the construction and rehabilitation of health facilities could result in adverse environmental effects.
- There exist excellent resources and guidelines produced by health organisations such as the WHO to guide the proper disposals of biomedical wastes that GAC can use as references to promote feasible approaches in its health programming.
- Canada’s health-related programming could also support local governments and local organisations on awareness and education campaigns explaining the negative impacts on health and quality of life of certain livelihood practices, including the use of mercury in artisanal and small-scale mining.
What are the proposed measures to minimise potential adverse environmental effects and increase positive development outcomes?
Health development outcomes could be improved through the following measures:
- Promote the integration of health and environment linkages in the education and training of health professionals, including preventive actions that can stop the spread of diseases or reduce exposure to environmental contaminants (e.g. smoke from cooking stoves, diesel fuel, pesticides, and contaminated water) or even reduce noise pollution.
- Promote and support biomedical waste management in health facilities and vaccination campaigns.
- Where GAC supports government health programs, advocate with health partners for the integration of health and environment considerations in health policies and programs, and encourage partners to engage with other non-health sector actors (e.g. economic, planning, environment, natural resources, energy, transport) to collaborate and take joint actions to address the root causes of their population’s health problems, especially those related to air and water quality. Tremendous health gains could be achieved by the adoption of cleaner fuels and more efficient technologies for household cooking, heating and lighting.
- Where engaged in health information initiatives, support studies, research, data collection/analysis and exchange of knowledge on health and environment linkages, including on environmental factors affecting the health and well-being of people, in particular with respect to reproductive health and child health.
- Request that partners carry out environmental assessments and integrate environmental and climate change considerations into the design and management of health facilities, including with respect to safe water, sanitation and hygiene, management of biomedical substances, persistent pollutants, and wastes, green energy, climate proof construction, choice of greener, lower carbon materials for construction, etc.
- Increase investment and help mobilize funding dedicated to providing clean water, sanitation and hygiene, including in health and education facilities, and in humanitarian settlements.
- Advocate and support sustainable systems of food production to ensure safe and nutritious food. This includes advocating for, and supporting capacity development in, agro-environmental systems that protect genetic diversity, maintain soil health, and manage pesticides and other inputs in a cautionary manner.
- Support women’s efforts to advocate for safe and healthy food production systems that are resilient to the shocks of a changing climate as a means to sustain people and healthy ecosystems, especially in developing countries.
- Support SDG target 3.9 aimed at significantly reducing, by 2030, the number of deaths and illnesses from hazardous chemicals and pollution and the contamination of air, water and soil by engaging with non-traditional health actors, especially a country’s economic development actors and advocating for preventive actions. Preventive actions such as changes in economic policy, effective land and water management and the enforcement of environmental laws and regulations could do more for public health than many curative measures. Advocating for stronger air quality standards and law enforcement, for the transition from coal and fossil fuels to clean sources of energy, including for indoor cooking, are tangible areas for action within GAC policy areas. Investments promoting renewable energy, clean energy (e.g. solar, thermal, and wind) and technologies to reduce CO2 emissions can significantly reduce air pollutants that would result in health gains.
For more information, consult the Public Statement: Strategic Environmental Assessment of Action Areas under Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy
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