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How Does Climate Change Effect Human Health?

We hear a lot about whether or not global warming is a real or imagined phenomenon, how global warming will affect the environment, and how humans are contributing to global warming. What we haven’t heard so much about, is how climate change, in general, affects human health, or what, if anything, humans can do to prevent or prepare for the impact of climate change on human health. Climate change might include global warming, but also includes heat waves, blizzards, hurricanes, floods, cold fronts, or any other changes in climate that could be natural or caused by humans directly or indirectly.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is the federal agency responsible for conducting medical research and for investigating causes, treatments, and cures for diseases. The NIH led an interagency group whose task was to identify health risks associated with climate change. The group recently released its report, A Human Health Perspective on Climate Change, which identifies 11 categories of disease and other human health consequences related to climate change; some that are already occurring and others that will occur.

11 Categories of Diseases and Human Health Consequences

1 Asthma, Respiratory Allergies, and Airway Diseases

2 Cancer

3 Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke

4 Foodborne Diseases and Nutrition

5 Heat-Related Morbidity and Mortality

6 Human Developmental Effects

7 Mental Health and Stress-Related Disorders

8 Neurological Diseases and Disorders

9 Vectorborne and Zoonotic Diseases

10 Waterborne Diseases

11 Weather-Related Morbidity and Mortality

The full report describes in detail what is currently known about these conditions, what research needs to be done to better understand the effects of climate change on health, who will be most vulnerable, and what public health efforts will be most beneficial. The report acknowledges that humans have adapted and will continue to adapt to climate changes, and draws attention to the need for additional research and actions that can be taken to minimize if not prevent human suffering in weather related events and tragedies. The report can be viewed in its entirety by clicking the link below.

A Human Health Perspective on Climate Change

Following are excerpts taken directly from the report that shows only what is already known about the impact of climate change on the 11 categories of diseases and health consequences identified. The excerpts provide a sense of the scope and complexity of climate-related health problems, and a basic understanding of some of these diseases and health conditions; what they are, how they are transmitted, and how prevalent they are.

Read also: Tips for green environment

How Does Climate Change Effect Human Health?

We hear a lot about whether or not global warming is a real or imagined phenomenon, how global warming will affect the environment, and how humans are contributing to global warming. What we haven’t heard so much about, is how climate change, in general, affects human health, or what, if anything, humans can do to prevent or prepare for the impact of climate change on human health. Climate change might include global warming, but also includes heat waves, blizzards, hurricanes, floods, cold fronts, or any other changes in climate that could be natural or caused by humans directly or indirectly.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is the federal agency responsible for conducting medical research and for investigating causes, treatments and cures for diseases. The NIH led an interagency group whose task was to identify health risks associated with climate change. The group recently released its report, A Human Health Perspective on Climate Change, which identifies 11 categories of disease and other human health consequences related to climate change; some that are already occurring and others that will occur.

11 Categories of Diseases and Human Health Consequences

1 Asthma, Respiratory Allergies, and Airway Diseases

2 Cancer

3 Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke

4 Foodborne Diseases and Nutrition

5 Heat-Related Morbidity and Mortality

6 Human Developmental Effects

7 Mental Health and Stress-Related Disorders

8 Neurological Diseases and Disorders

9 Vectorborne and Zoonotic Diseases

10 Waterborne Diseases

11 Weather-Related Morbidity and Mortality

The full report describes in detail what is currently known about these conditions, what research needs to be done to better understand the effects of climate change on health, who will be most vulnerable, and what public health efforts will be most beneficial. The report acknowledges that humans have adapted and will continue to adapt to climate changes, and draws attention to the need for additional research and actions that can be taken to minimize if not prevent human suffering in weather related events and tragedies. The report can be viewed in its entirety by clicking the link below.

A Human Health Perspective on Climate Change

* Click here to download the full report

Following are excerpts taken directly from the report that show only what is already known about the impact of climate change on the 11 categories of diseases and health consequences identified. The excerpts provide a sense of the scope and complexity of climate related health problems, and a basic understanding of some of these diseases and health conditions; what they are, how they are transmitted, and how prevalent they are.

Asthma, Respiratory Allergies, and Airway Diseases

Medical Supplies and Health Products

Cancer

Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke

Foodborne Diseases and Nutrition

Heat-Related Morbidity and Mortality

Human Developmental Effects

Mental , health and Stress Related Disorders

Mental health disorders comprise a broad class of illnesses from mild disorders, such as social phobias and fear of speaking in public, to severe diseases including depression and suicidal ideation. Many mental health disorders can also lead to other chronic diseases and even death. Stress-related disorders derive from abnormal responses to acute or prolonged anxiety, and include diseases such as obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. It is estimated that 26.2% of Americans over the age of 18 suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder in a given year; 9.5% suffer from mood disorders, and 6% suffer from serious mental illness.  However, mental health is an area of public health that is often a low research priority and one whose impacts on human and societal well being are typically underestimated, both within the United States and globally.

The severity of mental, health impacts following an extreme climate event will depend on the degree to which there is sufficient coping and support capacity, both during and following the event. During the recovery period following an extreme event, mental health problems and stress-related disorders can arise from geographic displacement, damage or loss of property, death or injury of loved ones, and the stress involved with recovery efforts.

The chronic stress-related conditions and disorders resulting from severe weather or other climate change-related events may lead to additional negative health effects. Studies have shown a negative relationship between stress and blood glucose levels, including influence on glycemic control among patients with type 2 diabetes. Evidence has also shown that human response to repeated episodes of acute psychological stress or to chronic psychological stress may result in cardiovascular disease. Although a direct cause and effect relationship has not yet been proven, some research has indicated a link between various psychological factors and an increased risk of developing some forms of cancer, as well as the progression of cancer in those already presenting with the disease.

Neurological Diseases and Disorders

The United States has seen an increasing trend in the prevalence of neurological diseases and deficits. Onset of diseases such as Alzheimer Disease (AD) and Parkinson Disease (PD) is occurring at earlier ages across the population. Environmental factors are suspected of playing a large role in both the onset and severity of these conditions, although there is a gap in our understanding of this role, especially in relation to genetics, aging, and other factors.

While some of these changes in neurological health likely are due to the aging of a large portion of the population, learning disabilities that affect children also are on the rise, and there are indicators that environmental factors may be involved including changes in climate that may exacerbate factors affecting the rates and severity of neurological conditions.

Neurological conditions generally carry high costs in terms of quality of life for both the sufferer and the caregiver and increased healthcare stresses on the economy and the workforce. Factors affected by climate with particular implications for neurological functioning include malnutrition; exposure to hazardous chemicals, bio-toxins, and metals in air, food, and water; and changes in pest management.

Examples of vector-borne diseases currently prevalent in the United States include Lyme disease and ehrlichiosis, bacterial diseases that are transmitted primarily by ticks. Other important zoonoses in the United States, some of which are also vectorborne, include rabies, Q fever, anthrax, pathogenic E. coli, tularemia, hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, and plague.

Sources:

https://www.psychology.org.au/Assets/Files/Burke-Sept-2014.pdf

https://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/programs/geh/climatechange/health_impacts/mental_health/index.cfm

 

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