Climate Change Health

Climate Change Health

Epidemics of weather and climate-sensitive infectious diseases such as malaria and meningitis will have a devastating effect on human well-being and socio-economic development and severely overburden health systems in many parts of the world.

A Multihazard Early Warning and Response System for forecasting adverse health impacts is being developed to reduce risks associated with such health hazards, to help health services cope with outbreaks and plan more effectively to prevent epidemics. This involves a critical partnership between WMO and the World Health Organization at global, regional and national levels; research communities; international and regional aid agencies; and others.

Climatic changes over recent decades have already affected some health outcomes. The World Health Organisation estimated, in its “World Health Report 2002″, that climate change was estimated to be responsible in 2000 for approximately 2.4% of worldwide diarrhoea, and 6% of malaria in some middle-income countries. However, small changes, against a noisy background of ongoing changes in other causal factors, are hard to identify. Once spotted, causal attribution is strengthened if there are similar observations in different population settings.

The first detectable climate change health might well be alterations in the geographic range (latitude and altitude) and seasonality of certain infectious diseases – including vector-borne infections such as malaria and dengue fever, and food-borne infections (e.g. salmonellosis) which peak in the warmer months. Warmer average temperatures combined with increased climatic variability alter the pattern of exposure to thermal extremes and resultant health impacts, in both summer and winter. 

Paul Epstein Lecture

In the movie below, Paul Epstein speaks about Climate Change Health, which was recorded in October 2006 and runs for 54 minutes. It really is worth watching… so bookmark this page if you don’t have time right now, and come back to view this crucial insight into Climate Change and Health.

In this lecture Paul discusses how climate change has multiple direct and indirect consequences for human health. Heat waves affect health directly and are projected to take and increasing toll in developed and underdeveloped nations.

The 2003 summer heatwaves in Europe, an event six standard deviations from the mean – led to 21-35,000 excess deaths in five nations, extensive wildfires, crop failures, nuclear plant shutdowns and melted 10% of the Alpine glacial mass. This event and Hurricane Katrina in 2005 demonstrate that climate change and its impacts are often much bigger than we think or predict, affecting people mentally.

Background on Paul R. Epstein

Paul R. Epstein, M.D., M.P.H. is Associate Director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School and is a medical doctor trained in tropical public health.

Paul has worked in medical, teaching and research capacities in Africa, Asia and Latin America and, in 1993, coordinated an eight-part series on Health and Climate Change for the British medical journal, Lancet. He has worked with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to assess the health impacts of climate change and develop health applications of climate forecasting and remote sensing.

He also served as a reviewer for the Health chapter of the Millenium Ecosystem Assessment, and was the lead author of Climate Change Futures: Health, Ecological and Economic Dimensions, a report released on November 1, 2005 after a three-year collaboration between the Center for Health and the Global Environment, Swiss Re and the United Nations Development Programme.

Don’t miss this.. it is worth an hour of your time to gain some insight into issues surrounding climate change health.