Public Health

Extreme heat can be fatal, and hurricanes and tornadoes cause injuries and damage infrastructure. Air pollution can be linked to respiratory illness, and drought can lead to malnutrition. These are just a few examples of how weather and climate can influence human health. Climate change has the potential to affect any health outcome that is sensitive to environmental conditions. However, the causal chain linking climate change to shifting patterns of health threats and outcomes is complicated by factors such as wealth, distribution of income, status of public health infrastructure, provision of preventive and acute medical care, and access to and appropriate use of health care information. As with many other consequences of climate change, concurrent changes in nonclimatic factors, such as combustion-related air pollution, will influence the severity of future health impacts.

Questions decision makers are asking, or will be asking, about climate change and public health include the following:

• What climate change effects are potentially the most dangerous to human health, and who is most at risk?

• What kinds of preventative measures and response systems can be put in place to manage these risks?

• Are there lessons that can be learned from other threats to human health?

• What kinds of monitoring systems are available to track the health impacts of climate change?

• How do we help ensure that actions taken to limit or adapt to climate change do not result in unintentional adverse health impacts?

• What actions to limit and adapt to climate change will yield public health co-benefits?

This chapter summarizes the current understanding of the health effects of climate change from stressors such as temperature, severe weather, infectious disease, and air quality. It also reviews how health may be affected—in negative or positive ways—by many of the strategies societies use to limit, prepare for, and adapt to climate change (Figure 11.1). More extensive discussions of the relationship between climate change

CHAPTER ELEVEN

Co o

Adverse Health Effects

Adverse Health Effects

Mitigation Policies for Reduction of Greenhouse Gas Emissions Enengy Efficiency

Use of Renewable Energy Sources Forest Preservation

Moderating Influences

Population Density and Growth

Level of Technological Development

Standard of Living and Local Environmental Condition

Preexistin g Health Status

Quality and Access to Health Care

Public Health Infrastructure

Adaptation Measures Disease Surveillance

Protective Technologies such as mosquito nets Weather Forecasting and Warning Systems Emergency Management and Disaster Preparedness Public Health Education and Prevention Legislation and Administration

Mitigation Policies for Reduction of Greenhouse Gas Emissions Enengy Efficiency

Use of Renewable Energy Sources Forest Preservation

Moderating Influences

Population Density and Growth

Level of Technological Development

Standard of Living and Local Environmental Condition

Preexistin g Health Status

Quality and Access to Health Care

Public Health Infrastructure

Adaptation Measures Disease Surveillance

Protective Technologies such as mosquito nets Weather Forecasting and Warning Systems Emergency Management and Disaster Preparedness Public Health Education and Prevention Legislation and Administration

FIGURE 11.1 Simplified illustration of the mechanisms through which climate change can affect health outcomes.The blue text provides lists of policies orfactors that can influence these health outcomes. Mitigation policies can potentially reduce the magnitude of climate change, while moderating influences (such as access to quality health care) or adaptation measures (such as improved public health education) could lessen the impact of adverse health effects. Mitigation and adaptation strategies will vary in the time necessary to implement them and realize their effects. SOURCE: Modified from Haines and Patz (2004).

and public health can be found in the recent synthesis of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP, 2008a) and in other recent reports and syntheses (e.g., Confaloni-eri, 2007; Confalonieri et al., 2007). Additionally, this chapter identifies research needed to clarify exposure-response relationships, better quantify the impacts of climate change on human health, and identify efficient adaptation options.

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