For years, experts have been warning about the risks to health linked to climate change, atmospheric pollution and the loss of biodiversity. These environmental problems accentuate cardiovascular, respiratory and rheumatic disorders, among others. “A recent study has revealed that the rise in temperature and ambient humidity leads to an increase of joint, skin and blood flare-ups in patients with lupus, a systemic autoimmune rheumatic disease affecting more than 75,000 people in Spain”, describes Dr. Nuria Vegas Revenga, president of the Euskadi Rheumatology Society of Euskadi and Rheumatology specialist at the Galdakao University Hospital.

More than 350 specialists travelled to Bilbao for the ‘9th Symposium on Autoimmune Diseases’ organised by the Spanish Rheumatology Society (SER) in the city on 16 and 17 February. In light of SER’s commitment to the environment, the Society sought to convert the negative impact of the conference into a positive one, by planting specimens of Quercus robur in Etxebarria Park, in collaboration with Bilbao City Council.

Nora Abete, deputy mayor and councillor for Mobility and Sustainability at Bilbao City Council, stresses the importance of these types of activity “that benefit the environment by contributing to greenhouse gas absorption”. The mayor adds that initiatives of this kind are in line with the main goals of the area for which she is the councillor, namely “to make Bilbao a greener, more accessible and environmentally friendly city where everyone can live longer and better”.



The global population is increasingly concentrated in urban zones. Recurring heatwaves are evidence of how city centres heat up more than the outskirts. An effect that could be mitigated with more trees and green zones. Parks and woodland are cooler than paved areas. In addition, the shade of the trees offers protection from the sun’s rays, a serious problem for patients with autoimmune diseases such as lupus or Sjögren’s syndrome, as Dr. Vegas points out: “The risks for patients with systemic lupus eritematoso when exposed to ultraviolet light, resulting in increased photosensitivity and systemic activity, are well known”.

The collaboration between the Spanish Rheumatology Society, Bilbao City Council and the Euskadi Rheumatology Society is helping to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) established by the Agenda 2030, a legacy of much importance for the three institutions.

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