HMS Physician-Scientist Named WHO Special Envoy for Climate Change and Health

Vanessa Kerry says building resilient health systems is key to reducing harm from climate crisis

A satelite image of a swirling storm above Malawi and Madagascar, with bands of green, yellow, orange and red showing increasingly intense rainfall.
Deadly heat, air pollution, drought, and flooding, made more intense and more frequent by global climate change, are fueling a worldwide health crisis. Seen here, record-breaking tropical cyclone Freddy batters Malawi in March 2023. Image: NASA

Harvard Medical School physician-scientist Vanessa Kerry has been named the World Health Organization’s first special envoy for climate change and health. The inaugural position and Kerry’s appointment to it were announced June 22 by WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

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Kerry, director of the Program in Global Public Policy and Social Change in the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine in the Blavatnik Institute at HMS and HMS associate professor of medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, said she’s looking forward to using her experience as a critical care physician working at the intersection of public health and climate change to provide strategic counsel to the WHO director-general and other key decision-makers on climate and health strategy.