Tag: Goal 3

SDG 3: Healthcare as a Human Right

This week’s guest blog comes fourth in a series of blogs on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) courtesy of Onna Malou van den Broek, second year doctorate student at King’s in the European & International Studies Department. Onna’s doctorate project titled: ‘The Political Payoff of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR): CSR as a Determinant for Lobbying Success’,  which looks at the relationship between corporate sustainability and lobbying, holding a special focus on the SDGs.  

This month is all about wellbeing at King’s. Unfortunately, access and quality of healthcare is not always guaranteed. Article 25 of the UN Human Rights Declaration (1948) states that everyone has the right to a standard of living that enables health and wellbeing (1). Due to the lack of accurate and credible data, it is difficult to measure the current state-of-art of healthcare provision.

SDG 3: Good health and wellbeing for everybody

Sickness and death are part of our natural cycle. However, there are many situations in which it can be prevented or cured. The number one cause of death are cardiovascular diseases. Amongst children under five, birth trauma’s, infections and bacteria lead to over 6 million annual deaths (2). Furthermore, there are large regional difference that mirror income disparity; the worst health situation can be found in Sub-Saharan-Africa and South Asia. As an example, maternal deaths are 14 times more likely to happen in developing countries and children are twice more likely to die before they turn five. Furthermore, developing countries still struggle with deadly diarrhoea contaminations caused by poor hygiene’s.

Reproduction, healthcare and medication

The first target is that everyone should have access to a good quality of healthcare and appropriate medications and vaccinations (3). Strengthening local capacities, for example; affordable care, educated doctors and hygienic hospitals, is a stepping-stone to achieve this. Moreover, women and children are central to accomplishing this goal. Some targets are, therefore, directed at issues such as reducing maternal mortality, preventing children’s deaths, eliminating substance abuse during pregnancy and easing access to sexual and reproductive services. Lastly, more general targets focus on issues regarding to common diseases, such as HIV and tuberculosis, traffic deaths and diseases caused by pollution.

Every Women, Every Child

The health of women and children is essential to achieve sustainable development. Healthy women and children create healthy societies and healthy societies build healthy economies, stability and harmony. The project “Every Women Every Child” was set up in 2010 by Ban Ki-Moon and works with various partners to tackle gender related health issues (4). One of their projects, in collaboration with Unilever and USAID, aims to tackle infant deaths due to a lack of hygiene. In order to achieve this, they encourage people to make a habit out of washing their hands with soap on a regular basis (5).

Contraception and family planning

High on the Dutch development agenda, and close to my heart, is sexual and reproductive health-care. The Netherlands helps 1.8 million girls and women to access contraception by strengthening third countries’ healthcare systems and actively lobbying foreign governments. Central to our development policy is family planning. Besides the project “She Decides” of our minister Lilianne Ploumen (which I will tell you more about in SDG 5), we are part of the partnership “Family Planning 2020”. The aim of this partnership is to ensure that every girl and woman is able to freely and independently make the decision whether, when and how many children she wants (7).

No well-being without mental health

There is a growing awareness that mental health is crucial to achieve the SDGs (8). “One in four people experience a mental health episode in their lifetime, but the issue remains largely neglected,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres. Mental health issues are strongly correlated with structural societal problems and too-often result in the neglect of human dignity and forced treatment. Potential solutions arise not only from within but also from outside the regular healthcare sector. The UK project “Time to Change” challenges the way we think and act around mental health in order to overcome shame and loneliness (9).

What can you do to achieve better health and well-being?

Healthcare is a worldwide problem. Start, therefore, with tackling a few health-related issues within in your own live, direct environment or broader society:

  • Take care of your own body. Eat healthy, exercise, drink in moderation and don’t wait around to visit a doctor. Moreover, make sure that you use contraception during sex, and only have sex without a condom if you are 100 percent sure you both are free of STDs.
  • Take care of your mind. Get enough rest and be aware of the signals of mental problems (10). One of the things I find useful is mindfulness (do you already know the Headspace app?). The online course “de-mystifying mindfulness” elaborates the clinical background of mindfulness in an accessible and academic way (11).
  • Challenge mental health stigma’s. Look at the “Time to Change” resource webpage and inform yourself about mental health issues. Start a conversation with your colleagues, be aware of stereotyping media coverage and call people out on their discriminatory behaviour.

Resources:

Biodegradable reusable water bottles now available at King’s

King’s branded reusable water bottles are now available to purchase at King’s Food outlets from 2 October 2017.

These reusable plastic bottles are biodegradable, helping to further reduce our environmental impact and improving our sustainable catering. The King’s water bottles are available to purchase for £2.90.

BottleWe are supporting the #OneLess bottle campaign to reduce the amount of single-use water bottles that are used at King’s. Adults in the UK use almost 7.7 billion single-use plastic water bottles every year, which is approximately 150 per person. There are a number of water fountains at the university, and though disposable cups can be found at King’s Food outlets, staff and students are encouraged to bring their own reusable bottle or purchase one of the King’s reusable bottles.

This year there have been a number of other sustainability achievements at the university. King’s became a member of the Sustainable Restaurant Association and in August was awarded with Fairtrade University status. Fairtrade food and drink that is available to purchase at King’s Food venues includes tea and coffee, sugar, muffins, chocolate and more. Coffee cup recycling bins were also introduced across the university in September to tackle the issue that disposable cups cannot be recycled with standard mixed recycling or paper recycling.

Tips about eating and drinking sustainably can be found on our Sustainability pages. There is also a Fairtrade and Sustainable Food steering group which meets regularly and is open to all. If you would like to find out more, please contact sustainability@kcl.ac.uk.

King’s joins Sustainable Restaurant Association

King’s is now a member of the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA), enabling the university to provide more ethical and sustainably sourced food. King’s Food have also signed up to the SRA’s core programme, “Food Made Good”.

Food can have a significant environmental and social footprint. Examples of this are production methods that may harm the environment, such as destruction of habitats and therefore loss of wildlife for agriculture, exploitation of workers in the developing world, or wasteful practices that mean food produced never makes it to our plates. Recently, MPs have called on supermarkets to help reduce the £10 billion worth of food thrown away every year, for example by clearing up confusion around ‘Best Before’ labels. There are now many initiatives to help cut food waste.

Shot_10-044The Sustainable Restaurant Association is a not-for-profit that started in 2010, and now has over 6,000 member sites nation-wide. The Sunday Times has even nicknamed their rating system the “Michelin Stars of Sustainability“.

The star rating is based on the SRA’s Food Made Good framework, made up of 14 key areas built on three pillars:

  • Sourcing: This category focuses on how food at the university is sourced. This means local and seasonal produce, ethical meat & dairy, environmentally positive farming, sustainable fish and buying fair trade.
  • Society: The society criteria focus on the impacts of food on people: fair treatment of workers, healthy and balanced menus, responsible marketing  and communication with customers, and engagement with the community, e.g. local schools.
  • Environment: This focuses on the environmental impacts food may have:  the supply chain of goods, waste management (including food waste), sustainable workplace resources, improving energy efficiency and saving water.

In the near future, King’s Food will be reviewed in these areas, and if scoring highly, awarded a rating out of three stars. Being part of the programme will help King’s Food to continuously improve sustainability in restaurants at King’s. The university joins a diverse range of SRA members, such as national chains like Wahaca and Jamie’s Italian, a number of universities, and even the Eurostar.

In addition to being a member of the SRA, King’s is currently working towards becoming a Fairtrade University.

The UK and the SDGs: A look back at the UKSSD conference

Earlier this month, the UK Stakeholders for Sustainable Development (UKSSD) held their annual conference in London. The theme this year was how to translate the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into actions in the UK.

UNSDG #18The conference started with a keynote speech by Amanda MacKenzie OBE, who highlighted the importance of getting everyone involved. When the SDGs were unveiled, she ran a campaign to get word about them out there. One of the key messages of this was the importance of using simple language everyone understands. This is why she refers to the goals as Global Goals rather than SDGs, claiming the term SDGs “sounds like something you would see your doctor about”. By calling them the Global Goals and making them accessible, we should be able to take millions of small, simple actions, together adding up to significant change.

Prior to the event, key partners of the UKSSD sent an open letter to Prime Minister Theresa May, asking what the government is doing, and will do, to work towards the SDGs. Lord Bates, Minister of State for the Department for International Development, took to the stage to respond on behalf of the government. He claimed that with Brexit, the SDGs can provide an important framework for the UK to face outwards again.

One aspect that was highlighted several times throughout the day was that the SDGs do not only apply to the developing world. Dr Graham Long from the University of Newcastle did extensive research on how the UK is doing compared to the goals – with the conclusion that there is work to be done within the UK too. For example, many see Goal 1 (No poverty) as only applying to the developing world. However, Dr Long showed that over 15% of households live under what is considered the poverty line in the UK. Similarly Goal 2 (Zero hunger) is not only about the absence of hunger – it is also about the presence of good nutrition.

So how can we achieve the goals and targets associated with them?

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Dr Jake Reynolds presenting his plan to ‘rewire’ the economy

According to Dr Jake Reynolds from CISL, it is all about ‘rewiring’ the economy. At the moment, sustainable businesses face many challenges, and one could argue that the game is tilted against them. We need to change this to a system where sustainable businesses have the advantage. Dr Reynolds presented his 10-task plan to make this happen, calling to the government, business and the financial sector to implement changes.

Talking about how businesses can have an impact and implement changes, another session focussed on leadership within organisations. While we often talk about wanting change to happen, few of us make changes themselves, and even fewer are ready to lead change.

In the afternoon, John Elkington chaired a panel discussing ‘Transforming lives’. One main point from the discussion was the importance of having a positive message. Mike Barry from Marks & Spencer’s Plan A said that to achieve the SDGs, we need to get people excited about them. Trewin Restorick from Hubbub reinforced this, sharing some of the positive and fun campaigns the charity Hubbub has run over the last year. As they are our next-door neighbours at Somerset House, you might have noticed us sharing some of their great ideas (including #BrightFriday and the Square Mile Challenge we will be taking part in). Another idea that was mentioned during this panel debate was that of Doughnut Economics by Kate Raworth – if you have followed our Sustainability Week, you might have heard her speak at our successful Overpopulation vs Overconsumption debate.

Overall, the conference gave attending businesses a good insight into why the SDGs matter, both at home and abroad, as well as how they can support them by promoting them in their organisation. As was repeated many times during the conference, we need everyone involved if we want to stand a chance at achieving the SDGs – this includes government, business, and every single one of us.

20161010 Olivia's Personal Blog UNSDGs (photo in blog post)

“Space to Breathe” at Somerset House

Last weekend, visitors to Somerset House could enjoy a series of interactive installations around the topic of air pollution. Pollution in London regularly exceeds legal limits, often due to the heavy traffic. The Space to Breathe exhibition aimed to raise awareness of this important issue by making it accessible to people.

BackPack2SmallThe exhibition was curated by Cape Farewell and Shrinking Space, in partnership with the Environmental Research Group (ERG) here at King’s College London. The ERG also run the LondonAir website, giving Londoners up-to-date information about the air we are breathing on a daily basis.

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Wearing the “Voyage on the Planet” backpack

One of the most striking pieces of the exhibition was Chih Chiu’s “Voyage on the Planet”: a glass backpack with a plant inside, connected to a facemask to block out surrounding pollution. Visitors were encouraged to try it out themselves, and to take it outside to the streets of London. Cape Farewell and Shrinking Space posted photos of this throughout the weekend. I also got the chance to try one of the backpacks, which did make me think about what I breathe in every day – even when just crossing Waterloo Bridge!

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Cycling to run the bar

By using VR headsets, the exhibition also offered to experience what the Aldwych could look like in a greener future: think lorries and cars replaced by pedestrians and green space. Artist Caroline Wright asked people to sing a single note to see how where they live affects their lung volume, and to collate the voices of visitors in a single Sounding Scape. On the Terrace, Solar Sound System ran a bar powered on solar energy and bicycles: two people cycle to keep the music on, while to more cycle to get the juice presses working.

Air pollution is something that is largely invisible, especially when it comes to NO₂. Throughout the weekend, the artists and experts at Space to Breathe made it visible through the different installations. Photos of the whole weekend can be found by visiting Cape Farewell, Shrinking Space, Cultural King’s and LondonAir.

Part 3 of 3: What can I do about air pollution?

Welcome back to our series on air quality! In previous posts, we focused on why pollution matters and what the main causes are in London. In this final part, Timothy Baker from the Environmental Research Group (ERG) at King’s offers his advice on how individuals can protect themselves from pollution, and what they can do to help clean up London’s air.

Living in London, we are exposed to varying levels of pollution every day. As Tim Baker discussed in the first part of this series, the places where we are most exposed might be surprising – such as inside our cars or taxis. Although walking or cycling may be better for our health than being inside a car, we are still exposed to pollution. We asked Tim Baker what the method for reducing this exposure was, and he suggested planning routes carefully:

“It’s actually all common sense. If you avoid the traffic when walking or cycling somewhere, you will dramatically reduce your exposure levels. Even just going one street back from the main road will probably halve your pollution exposure. It’s as simple as that.”

To make this easier, the ERG’s London Air website offe_DSC6991rs street-by-street pollution maps, enabling Londoners to plan a route avoiding the most polluted areas. The team is also planning a mapping service that would automatically give users the least polluted route to their destination. Those most at risk, such as people suffering from existing respiratory problems, should check pollution forecasts before undertaking strenuous tasks outside, and potentially wait if pollution is expected to clear later in the day.

There is also a range of things our expert Tim Baker believes individuals can do to contribute to tackling pollution in London. As a large proportion of pollution is due to transport, the first step is not using a car to get around the city. Cycling or walking to work would reduce traffic, often get people to their destination quicker, and even though cyclists are exposed to pollution, Tim Baker claims the health benefits of cycling offset the risk of exposure. Another option is to take public transport. Responding to a recent initiative to publish air quality data on polluted days at bus stops, the expert welcomed the idea and said:

“At the end of the [air quality] message they should add ‘Thank you for doing something to help’. Because if someone sees it at a bus stop, they are already helping the problem by using public transport.”

If driving is necessary, people should think carefully about what kind of cars to get.
While cars powered by alternative fuels may be more environmentally friendly than those powered by petrol or diesel, they are still expensive. Engine size should also be kept in mind. “If you’re looking for what is going to have the least impact [on air quality], and is a cheap vehicle, it’s probably currently going to be a small petrol engine”, says Tim Baker. Finally, something that King’s, businesses and even households should reconsider is the necessity of having items delivered as soon as possible. Many deliveries are not required immediately, and instructing companies to wait until several items can be delivered at once is an easy way to reduce traffic on the roads. At London Bridge, local businesses suggested to have consolidated deliveries at night, and have campaigned to keep their streets pedestrianised during the day. As more and more businesses get involved and even help fund measuring equipment, the expert says everybody else will hopefully follow soon to help combat pollution in London.

1917496_212679981259_3444746_nThis was the final part of our series on air pollution in London. We would like to thank Timothy Baker for taking the time to answer our questions and share his advice with us. For regular updates on air quality in London, visit the ERG’s London Air website and Twitter. To keep in touch with the Sustainability Team, follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or email us at sustainability@kcl.ac.uk.

Part 2 of 3: The causes of London’s pollution problem

Welcome back to our series on air quality! Last time, we talked about why air pollution matters. Today, the focus will be on the main causes of air pollution in London – and why the Volkswagen emissions scandal might have had some positive consequences after all. Again, Timothy Baker from the Environmental Research Group (ERG) at King’s has shared his knowledge with us, and given us his expert view on what governments should do to tackle pollution. 

When it comes to the causes of pollution, many might be quick to blame large vehicles such as lorries. But according to Tim Baker, one of the main culprits for air pollution in London are diesel cars. They were often seen as the more environmentally friendly option compared to petrol cars, but while technology in petrol has improved rapidly in recent years, diesel cars have lagged behind. “The Department for Transport tested the 15 most popular diesel vehicles, and on average they were 4 to 7 times over the legal limit”, says Tim Baker in our interview. Petrol cars on the other hand only achieve somewhere around 10% of the emissions they are legally allowed to achieve, he claims. ITF066044RGB75Under certain conditions, many diesel cars will also switch off their emission controls. Legal loopholes enabled them to do this when the outside temperature falls below 18°C. While manufacturers claim this is to protect the engine, average temperatures in London mean this causes significant problems for the city’s pollution levels, as cold periods are often when pollution builds up. This is made worse by the rising number of diesel vehicles on London’s roads.

“What we have seen is that the advances in technology in some vehicles have been massively offset by the change in fleet, especially in London. 10 years ago, probably around 15% of cars on the road were diesel. The year before last, more than half of the registered new cars were diesel.”

Some weather conditions can also contribute to higher pollution levels. Pollution can build up when it is not windy, and some of the worst pollution episodes happen on cold, foggy mornings when pollutants are trapped close to the ground. In addition to this, London’s geographical location means it may also be exposed to pollution from continental Europe. This is usually the case during spring, when wind carries pollution from the Netherlands, Belgium or France to London. However, the opposite is true for large parts of the year, carrying emissions from South East England to continental Europe. IND053Therefore, even local pollution might require cross-border efforts to be tackled effectively. “It’s also someone else’s local emissions. And where are our local emissions going when they are not causing us a problem? They are going to somebody else”, says Tim Baker.

To solve London’s pollution problem, he says governments need to be brave, and not afraid to make difficult decisions. “Everyone says it’s the lorries. But if you actually want to solve the urban pollution problem in London, in a stroke, it’s ban diesel cars”, Tim Baker tells us in the interview. While this might be a drastic measure, he believes the public is now more aware of just how bad diesel vehicles are for air quality. “The Volkswagen emissions scandal did more for publicity than anything that has been done in the previous years of trying to get the story across”, the expert tells us, explaining that when the first London sites exceeded annual limits earlier this year, the press coverage had changed compared to previous years. “Usually they are calling us to explain why air pollution is bad for you. That didn’t happen this time – they actually started their articles with ‘We know air pollution is bad for you, it’s diesel that is causing it’.” As much of the changes to London’s car fleet have happened in the last 10 years, Tim Baker believes these changes should be reversible over the next 10 years. However, he is not sure governments are ready to do this:

“Is it likely to happen? Probably not. It should be possible, but I suspect there isn’t the bravery. I hope I’m proved wrong”

1917496_212679981259_3444746_nThe next and final part of our air pollution series will focus on the actions each individual can take to both protect themselves from pollution, and to help clean up London’s air. In the meantime, you can follow us on Twitter and Facebook for more updates, as well as the ERG’s Twitter and website for regular pollution updates and forecasts. 

Part 1 of 3: Air quality in London – meet the experts at King’s College London

An interview with air quality expert Timothy Baker

Air pollution is a hot topic in London. Mayor Sadiq Khan has raised the issue repeatedly over the last few months, promising an ultra low emission zone (ULEZ) in central London by 2019. King’s College London is contributing to the debate through the work done by the Environmental Research Group (ERG). The ERG is a leading provider of air quality research in the UK and shares information on air quality in London with the public, including “nowcasts” showing current pollution levels, and pollution forecasts. The Sustainability Team met up with Timothy Baker from the ERG’s Measurement team to talk about the work of the ERG and the dangers of and solutions to pollution. This blog post is the first of three in our series on air quality, and will focus on why air quality research in London matters.

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If you have been following the King’s College London Twitter account recently, you will have noticed their Q&A on pollution with members of the ERG. It enabled anyone interested to pose their questions to the experts, and encouraged an open discussion on pollution. Our expert Tim Baker explains why bringing attention to air pollution is important:

“Unfortunately it is one of those stories that will only get worse and worse. As more and more research goes on, we realise it affects us in so many more ways than what was originally thought.”

According to Tim, latest research shows that the health impacts of pollution can go far beyond the respiratory system. For example, particles could enter the bloodstream and cause cardiovascular problems. Children are one of the groups most at risk, especially since they may be exposed to high pollution levels on their way to school. The consequences of this are often long-term. Tim Baker explains that researchers looked at how pollution affects schoolchildren’s lung functions in Hackney and Tower Hamlets.

“They got some strong results that living in an area that has elevated pollution results in stunted lung growth in children. And one of the issues with that is that you never get it back.”

Knowing one’s exposure to pollution can be equally as important as knowing which particles are in the air. This can include the location itself, as well as how long is spent at a location. While many people might be reluctant to walk or cycle along a busy road due to pollution levels, Tim Baker claims that the most polluted place on a road is often inside cars: “The car is the most polluted place to be. Even though people think ‘Oh, I don’t want to walk along that road because it’s polluted’, if you’re in a car, you’re going to be more exposed than when you’re walking or cycling.” One of the reasons for this is that if a car is stuck in traffic, as is often the case in London, passengers might be exposed to emissions from surrounding vehicles.

An area that has seen little research so far is the London Underground network. Even though up to 4.8 million passengers travel on the Tube every day, air quality measurements have been very limited until recently, and therefore it is hard to make a statement on what impact pollution on the Underground has on commuters and TfL staff members. Most measuring equipment is both expensive and bulky, making it difficult to measure air quality on the go, for example during a commute. New smaller, and more affordable, sensors are increasingly available on the market, but their measurements might not be accurate, nor give users a full picture of pollution levels. Nevertheless, they could be useful for giving indicative measurements of people’s everyday exposure to pollution. The ERG has given small sensors to office workers, ambulance drivers and schoolchildren to better understand daily exposure. Tim Baker says he is hopeful that these small, cheaper sensors will be improved in the future, as this would mean more sensors could be placed all over the city and give a better picture of air quality.

1917496_212679981259_3444746_nFor the time being, air quality measurements for London can be viewed on the LondonAir website, and the team regularly releases updates on pollution levels on Twitter. The next part of our series on air pollution will focus on what causes pollution in London, who some of the worst polluters are, and what should be done to tackle this – make sure not to miss it by following us on Twitter and Facebook