Environment’s impact on health
What is the Environment’s impact on health at AstraZeneca?
Company efforts to prevent disease and improve health outcomes by addressing environmental determinants of health. This includes the built environment, changing disease patterns, increasing allergens, and heat-related and pollution-related illnesses and deaths, among others.
We recognise that everything is interconnected. The health of our planet has a direct impact on human health. We strive to prevent disease and improve health by addressing how the environment impacts human health. Our strategy on this issue is Healthy Planet, Healthier People, which signals that through a healthy planet, we can help facilitate better health for people. In 2019, this strategy will be launched to understand and address our environmental impacts from the very beginning of our research process to prevention programmes for patients, which will include an internal and external engagement plan since we recognise the close connection health and environment have across many areas of our business.
In 2018 we launched a pilot project at Lake Victoria’s Dunga Beach in Kenya to transform waste into clean energy. Through this programme – a partnership with the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership – biodigestors turn organic waste into clean energy. This reduces air pollution, which contributes to respiratory illnesses in the community. Today 3 billion people, including 77% of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa, use biomass such as wood, dried leaves, dung or hay as their main energy source.1 This project aims to improve the community’s respiratory health by reducing people’s exposure to smoke from wood-burning cook fires. It also reduces the time women and children must spend collecting firewood, giving children more time for school and women more time to engage in income-generating activities.
Our employees have connected the dots between nature, air pollution and our health. Recognising that forests are the factory for clean air because trees absorb carbon and decrease air pollution, employees started an initiative called AZForest. Trees are essential to mitigate effects of climate change. To date, our employees have planted more than 600 trees. Employees are encouraged to post pictures of their planted trees using #AZForest on our internal employee social media platform.
The increasing resistance of infectious diseases to antibiotics is an urgent global issue. Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is predicted to become the leading cause of mortality by 2050,22 with a person dying from a resistant infectious disease every three seconds. We invest in R&D for infection, and we stand with our colleagues across the industry and beyond with a multi-stakeholder ‘one health’ approach to tackle the threat that AMR poses to society and the barriers that prevent new antibiotics coming to the market.
We partnered with the Joint Programming Initiative on AMR and other international experts on a report to further explore the drivers involved. It outlines critical knowledge gaps and four urgent research needs related to the environmental dimensions of AMR.
We are co-funding research to establish approaches to defining safe environmental levels for antibiotics entering the environment through drug production and patient use. In 2018, we published our first paper, which showed that understudied parts of ecosystems could be just as important as clinical settings to understand how bacteria mutate, resulting in antibiotic resistance.2
Through the AMR Alliance – a coalition of over 100 healthcare companies and associations aiming to provide solutions to curb AMR – we published a framework promoting responsible antibiotic manufacturing. This framework provides a methodology and minimum requirements needed to conduct a site risk evaluation of antibiotic suppliers. 3 We also published the first list of discharge targets to guide environmental risk assessments for the manufacture of antibiotics.4 These targets, which followed the recommendations in our Environment International publication, 5 were based on protecting both environmental and human health.