Action to reduce the health effects of climate change

Action to reduce the health effects of climate change can be thought of in terms of the classical categorization of preventive measures in public health (McMichael, A., personal communication, 1998):

• primordial prevention: preventing climate change itself (mitigation);

• primary prevention: action taken to prevent the onset of disease from environmental disturbances in an otherwise unaffected population (such as early weather watch/warning systems and supplying bednets to all members of a population at risk of exposure to encroaching malaria);

• secondary prevention: preventive action taken in response to early evidence of health effects (such as adaptation and strengthening disease surveillance); and

• tertiary prevention: health care action taken to lessen the morbidity or mortality caused by the disease (such as improved diagnosis and treatment of cases of malaria).

Secondary and tertiary prevention are both, in general, relatively less effective than primordial and primary prevention. They are both ethically and socially undesirable when primary action could be taken.

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