This Foundation is Peering Into the Health Effects of Global Coal Usage

The Health Effects Institute’s Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study (GBD) is the mother of all reports on epidemiological trends worldwide. Its most recent update was made through the efforts of 1,000 collaborators across over 100 countries. Given the comprehensive nature of the GBD, who better to tap when diving into a new major public health study?

The Hewlett Foundation recently awarded the Health Effects Institute a three-year, $500,000 grant for research into the connection between specific coal plants and current health and mortality issues. The study will parley the methodology used in the GBD and apply it to both current and projected coal use in China, India, and Eastern Europe. The overall goal of the study is to bring increased attention to air pollution connected to coal and to promote clean energy and other alternatives to using coal as an energy source.

The air quality in China has been badly deteriorating for years, and the majority of the country’s major cities fail to meet even the most basic air quality standards. Last November, China pledged to stop its carbon emissions growth by 2030. And China recorded a decrease in coal production in 2014, the first the country has measured since 2000.

Worldwide, air pollution exposure contributed to nearly 4 million premature deaths in 2012, with close to 90 percent of those deaths occurring in the Western Pacific and Southeast Asia Regions. As well, Eastern Europe is widely considered an air pollution hotspot.

Hewlett is not a global health funder that is explicitly focused on the negative effects of air pollution—rather, it funds reproductive and sexual health. But like many other climate funders right now, Hewlett is deeply involved in the "war against coal," both in the United States and abroad. Spotlighting the negative health effects of coal use is one way to move the needle on this issue.