The Exchange

Commentary and Observations from
the Medical Front Lines

Climate Change and Health: Let’s Take a Stand to Save Lives!

Climate Change and Health: Let’s Take a Stand to Save Lives!

Both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) agree that climate change has a significant negative effect on health worldwide. According to the WHO, climate change affects the social and environmental determinants of health: clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food, and secure shelter. Between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea, and heat stress.

The CDC lists four main factors of climate change that cause negative effects: rising temperatures, an increase in extreme weather, rising sea levels, and increased carbon dioxide levels. An increase in severe weather, extreme heat, environmental degradation, water and food supply impacts, water quality impacts, increasing allergens, changes in vector ecology, and worsening air pollution are issues we are seeing today in California and worldwide.

The CDC is working with local public health departments to use a model they have developed to identify critical gaps and implement programs to address these gaps. The model is the five-step Building Resilience Against Climate Effects (BRACE) framework to identify climate impacts in local communities, potential health effects associated with these impacts, and the most at-risk populations and locations. The BRACE framework then helps states develop and implement health adaptation plans and address gaps in critical public health functions and services.

Nurse practitioners and physician assistants need to work with their local public health departments on these initiatives. It is critical that we all get involved locally to be part of the solution. The CDC has excellent resources for more information on addressing climate change and its health consequences for those ready to get involved—We don't have time to wait!

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Filed under: Miscellaneous, Public Health

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