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ridefortheirlives reaches the WHO in Geneva


Children’s doctors’ climate ride calls time on ‘fiction’ about ‘caring for children’

· Ride for their Lives 2022 launched 8.30 am, May 22, during Global Walk the Talk, Geneva

· Paediatricians cycled 800km to meet World Health Organisation director-general for launch

· ‘Climate change is making children ill and it’s our job to face up to child illness,’ say kids' doctors

An international campaign by health staff to protect children from the climate crisis launched today (8.30 am, Sunday, May 22).

A cycling campaign was launched by a group of paediatricians under the banner "Ride for their Lives 2022" at the World Health Organisation's "Global Walk the Talk" in Geneva. It was announced by Dr Mark Hayden, consultant paediatric intensivist at Great Ormond Street Hospital, Dr Heather Lambert, a retired paediatrician. Dr Hayden and Dr Lambert cycled 800km from London to Geneva for the launch where they were greeted by Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, World Health Organisation director-general.

Mark and Heather also took part in the Walk the Talk campaign, an active travel initiative conceived and promoted by the World Health Organisation.

Ride for their Lives 2022 will see health staff around the world use cycling and other forms of active travel to inspire action on the climate crisis.

These actions include encouraging health staff to be more political, and health care organisations to change their working practices.

Rides are already arranged in ten major UK cities and nine other countries on four continents - North America, South America, Australasia, and Europe. It is hoped around 100 rides will take place, with most taking place just before or during COP27.

Dr Hayden said: “We all love to say we care for children. But as children’s health care professionals, it's a fiction if we close our eyes to the climate crisis. It’s going to cause severe health problems for large numbers of today’s children.

“Nobody enjoys thinking about kids being sick, but as paediatric staff, it’s our job to face up to precisely that. Moreover, we’re experts in managing a crisis and finding systemic solutions.

“Beating climate change isn’t difficult. We know how to do it, we have known for decades. The missing piece is the action.

“Health professionals are among the most trusted voices in society - people listen to us. We can drive action at all levels - the health sector, governments and the public. That’s why Ride for their Lives is so important.”

RTFL 2022 campaign director Tom Clark said: “The ride will culminate in the run-up to COP27 with an international coalition of healthcare providers all cycling to drive action. These actions include making everyday working practices in the health sector more sustainable, health staff challenging their own institutions to make fundamental systemic change, and interrogating procurement processes to drive changes across the supply chain.

“The ride also aims to inspire healthcare professionals to become more political by challenging their representatives at local and national levels to listen to them as trusted members of society, and to drive out the current fossil fuel narrative.”

Climate-related threats to children’s health include air pollution, water scarcity, extreme weather, famine, flood, disease and fire. The Royal Society for Paediatric and Children’s Health states that almost all children (more than 99%) are exposed to one or more climate and environmental risk to their health. Unicef estimates that approximately one billion children - nearly half - are at ‘extremely high risk’ of impacts from the climate crisis.

The WHO estimates that more than 13 million deaths around the world each year are due to avoidable environmental causes. This includes the climate crisis which is the single biggest health threat facing humanity. The climate crisis is also a health crisis.

Their website states : “Our political, social and commercial decisions are driving the climate and health crisis. Over 90% of people breathe unhealthy air resulting from the burning of fossil fuels. A heating world is seeing mosquitoes spread diseases farther and faster than ever before. Extreme weather events, land degradation and water scarcity are displacing people and affecting their health. Pollution and plastics are found at the bottom of our deepest oceans, the highest mountains, and have made their way into our food chain.”

Notes to editors

Notes to Editors

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Ride for their Lives 2021 saw a group of paediatricians ride 1600km from Geneva to Glasgow in the runup to COP26 November 2021. See here for some of the coverage.


Ipsos MORI Veracity Index

Health care professionals are vital to communicating the climate crisis and inspiring action because they are trusted.

Nurses and doctors consistently come top in the Ipsos MORI Veracity Index, which polls the public on which professions they consider most trustworthy. In 2021 they were in the top three.


Global Walk the Talk, The Health for All Challenge

The World Health Organization will organize the 3rd edition in Geneva of the “Walk the Talk: Health For All Challenge” on Sunday 22 May, on the morning of the World Health Assembly.

This in-person event will invite participants to run or walk over two routes: 3 km and 4.2 km. People of all ages and abilities will start at Place des Nations from 8.30am.

People around the world are invited to take part in the event by tracking their performances through the Walk the Talk app. By registering, participants will receive a login to take part-in anywhere in the world. More information is coming soon.