Climate Change as a Public Health Issue

By Rachel Roberts 

medical-doctor-1314902-mThe effects of climate change on our physical environment such as sea level rise, extreme weather patterns, and water shortages have been widely discussed and publicized by the media. The effects of climate change on our personal health—not so much.

As part of National Public Health Week last week, President Obama joined U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy for a roundtable discussion on the links between climate change and public health.

At a speech at the Howard University Medical School, Obama said, “There are a whole host of public health impacts that are going to hit home, so we’ve got to do better in protecting vulnerable Americans. Ultimately, though, all of our families are going to be vulnerable. You can’t cordon yourself off from air or climate.

Within the last 3 decades, the percentage of Americans with asthma has more than doubled. Climate change has led to increased smog, longer allergy seasons, and a higher chance for extreme-weather-related injuries. Those most at risk include children, the elderly, the sick, low-income communities, and communities of color.

Last Tuesday, the White House made public more than 150 data sets summarizing different ways climate change is harming public health, which included research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

English: The Centers for Disease Control and P...

English: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention headquarters in Druid Hills CDP in unincorporated DeKalb County, Georgia as seen from Emory University (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to the World Health Organization, climate change could cause an estimated additional 250,000 deaths per year between 2030 and 2050. Climate change affects every aspect of the world we live in, including the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink.

The White House also announced plans by both Microsoft and Google to develop technologies to learn about the impacts of climate change on public health.

Microsoft’s research branch is planning to develop a prototype for drones that would collect mosquitoes for analysis of their genes and pathogens. The goal of this project is to develop a system that would be able to provide early warning signs regarding potential infectious diseases that could arise if climate change were to worsen.

Similarly, Google has agreed to donate 10 million hours of advanced computing time on the development of new tools such as risk maps and early warnings for disasters such as wildfires and oil fails through the Google Earth Engine platform.

Furthermore, the Obama administration has also announced a series of steps it will take to increase preparedness, such as plans to convene stakeholders and expand access to climate change and health care data.

Although this is a step in the right direction, the Obama administration recognizes that there is still “a lot more work to do if we’re going to deal with this problem in an effective way and make sure our families and kids are safe.”


1 thought on “Climate Change as a Public Health Issue

  1. Neil

    Absolutely! Global warming affects the environment as well as the health of the people living in that environment. Climatic changes impact human habitats as much as animal habitats. If everyone knew how much global warming can affect their health, they might be more prone to working towards a solution. Until then, those who understand the ramifications of global warming will have to work even harder.


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