Estimating the health and climate benefits of air quality management plans in Colombia

Santiago de Cali and the Metropolitan Area of Aburra Valley, both BreatheLife Network Members with air quality management plans, received technical assistance from the Climate and Clean Air Coalition’s Solution Centre to estimate the health and climate benefits of their plans. This assistance helped build capacity and promote an integrated climate, environmental and health approach for air quality planning.   


The implementation, monitoring, and assessment of air quality management plans is one of the most effective ways to improve air quality at a city level. Furthermore, these plans can serve as a framework to promote actions by environmental health authorities and other sectors.  

Reducing air pollution in cities can lead to important health benefits by reducing the exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and tropospheric ozone, pollutants with well-known harmful health effects. In addition, actions to reduce air pollution will also reduce short-lived climate pollutants like black carbon, methane and ozone, and greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (CO2).  

Identifying and quantifying emissions by sector in an air quality management plan is key to effectively reduce such emissions. The health care system is also a major source of these pollutants, primarily due to energy consumption, travel, and procurement. 


Quantified potential health and climate benefits and sectorial contributions are not always included in air quality management plans due to the limited understanding of the tools and methodologies needed to determine these.

Air quality management plans can play an increasingly important role in supporting decision making by including properly estimated health benefits from the burden of disease from air pollution, quantified short-lived climate pollutant and greenhouse gas emissions, and measurements of a health system’s carbon footprint. These estimations can help engage key stakeholders like the health sector, that are not always aware of their contribution to climate change.

Assistance provided

The Clean Air Institute and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)/Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization (WHO) helped estimate the burden of disease from air pollution in Cali and Aburra Valley. They organized and collected local inputs from the epidemiology surveillance system (baseline disease rates), the air quality monitoring network, and population and GIS databases. They identified relevant relative risk coefficients and dose-response functions for assessing the air pollution burden of disease in Latin American countries and helped quantify air pollution health impacts in Cali and Aburra’s Valley using AirQ+ and BenMAP-CE, tools.

They also conducted a climate benefit analysis to determine the health care system’s carbon footprint. This analysis included:

  • Identifying short-lived climate pollutant and greenhouse gas emission sources in the health care system
  • Identifying measures to reduce these emissions in the health care system to be incorporated into air quality management plans
  • Identifying key indicators to estimate the climate benefits of reducing SLCP and GHG emissions in the health care system

Video: Aburra Valley, Colombia Clean Air Day message

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