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Ride For Their Lives podcast and Clean Air Day

14th June 2023

In support of tomorrow’s Clean Air Day 2023 (Thursday 15 June), we are delighted to share a Voices blog by Victoria Jackson, Senior Programme Manager – Projects and Evaluation at iHV, on how air quality affects all of us – our families, babies and children. In our latest podcast, Victoria also interviews Dr Heather Lamber and Dr Mark Hayden, who have taken action to clean up our air as part of Ride For Their Lives, an international collaboration of healthcare providers promoting clean air.

Ride For Their Lives team of cyclists with the Blue Bag

In 2013, 9-year-old Ella Kissi-Debrah tragically died in Lewisham. At the time of her death, the cause was recorded as asthma. In 2021, Ella’s death was reviewed and the coroner concluded that the cause of her death was Ella died of asthma contributed to by exposure to excessive air pollution”. Ella was the first person in England to have air pollution named as a cause of death by a coroner. In his report, the coroner urged the government to take action to bring air quality up to minimum World Health Organization (WHO) standards. Every year, tens of thousands of people around the UK are killed by air pollution.

Many organisations have campaigned for ‘Ella’s Law’ which is what people are calling the Clean Air (Human Rights) Bill, that was introduced to Parliament in May 2022 and gained cross-party support in the House of Lords in December. It was due to be read in the House of Commons in February 2023, coinciding with the 10th anniversary of Ella’s death, but unfortunately the bill was not read, and we are waiting for a new date to be announced. If passed, the bill would require the Government to act to bring air quality in every community up to the minimum WHO standards and establish the right to breathe clean air as a basic human right.  This delay has not deterred action by the NHS to improve air quality. On 1 July 2022,  NHS England became the first healthcare system to embed net zero into legislation, through the Health and Care Act 2022. Following an air quality consultation in early 2023, a new air quality strategy was published in April 2023. One of the conclusions drawn from the consultation was:

“Poor air quality is the biggest environmental threat to public health. Air quality interventions should be designed in a way which takes account of the disparities in exposure to and impacts from poor air quality.”

In June 2019, Newcastle Hospitals became the first healthcare organisation in the world to declare a Climate Emergency. Since then, many NHS organisations have joined and this is shared across the devolved nations. Greener NHS outlines how this will be achieved in their ‘Delivering a Net Zero Health Service’ report, with 2 clear targets:

  1. Net zero by 2040 for the emissions which the NHS controls directly
  2. Net zero by 2045 for the emissions which the NHS has the ability to influence.

The report outlines that this can only be achieved by all sectors of the NHS working together, regardless of role, department or responsibility.

Clean Air Day, 15 June 2023, gives us the opportunity to reflect on the ways that air quality affects all of us, our families, babies and children. It also helps us to understand our personal connection to air pollution, our own impact on the environment and hopefully inspires us to take action to improve air quality.

With this in mind, our most recent iHV Podcast features my conversation with Dr Heather Lamber and Dr Mark Hayden, who have taken action to clean up our air. They are part of Ride For Their Lives, an international collaboration of healthcare providers promoting clean air. The campaign started in 2021, when a group of paediatric patients wrote urgent messages about air pollution on ‘the blue bag’ that healthcare professionals took on bikes from London to Glasgow, to present to world leaders at COP26.

Blue bag carried by Ride For Their Lives

Since then, the Ride For Their Lives group has grown, and many more rides have taken place. The story of Ride For Their Lives, has been captured in the following short video, which Heather presented at the annual RCPCH meeting in Glasgow – to get to this meeting they rode from Newcastle to Glasgow.

The premise of Ride For Their Lives is to cycle to different locations within the UK and the rest of the world, raising awareness of the impact of poor air quality, as well as energising and inspiring action on air pollution and the wider climate and nature crisis. The campaign is led by healthcare professionals and engages other healthcare professionals to use their platform to advocate for our patients, the planet and ourselves. The campaign aims to raise awareness and petition governments and policymakers to make changes that will improve health for all, especially children and babies whom this will affect the most.

Mark and others at Great Ormond Street Hospital have been investigating training for staff to enable them to better recognise unsafe levels of air pollution and how they can support babies, children and families when levels are unsafe. This poster outlines this work and its outcomes.

In the podcast, Heather and Mark talk about how they got involved, what we can all do to help combat air pollution, the joy of cycling and that electric bicycles are just as good for you as a conventional bike. If you have been inspired by Heather and Mark and want to know more, get involved or even participate in the next ride, please check out their website and sign-up at

Victoria Jackson, Senior Programme Manager – Projects and Evaluation at iHV

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