Health finally gets on the agenda at the Rio earth summit

The document agreed at the major Rio+20 United Nations conference on a sustainable future for the planet acknowledges the importance of health and disability issues. World leaders agreed that green policies should enhance the welfare of people with disabilities, promote inclusive housing, create a healthy living environment for all, and promote occupational health.

According to the World Health Organization’s Department for Public Health and Environment, there was “enormous progress” since early drafts of the declaration, which included virtually no mentions of health. The final document agreed at the summit on 22nd June, “The Future We Want” (, includes many references to health issues and the determinants of health. 

It points to:

  • the importance of green economies providing workers with necessary social and health protections
  • the need for rural communities to have access to health care and social services
  • the need to prevent non-communicable diseases and reduce air and chemical pollution
  • the need for workers to have access to health care and occupational health and safety.

WHO welcomed the outcome document. “Our work on healthy workplaces, developing tools for control and mitigation of health risks at the workplace and on prevention of work-related cancer and respiratory diseases contributes to meeting this objective,” said Ivan Ivanov, Team Leader for Occupational Health at WHO’s Department for Public Health and Environment.

Meanwhile, the Secretariat for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities at the United Nations has also said it is pleased with the outcome of the Rio Summit. It says there are five specific references to disability in the final document, including an affirmation that green economic policies should enhance the welfare of persons with disabilities.