Climate Change: Why the Environment Is a Matter of Public Health


March 01, 2016 Posted in: Family Health , Article

With near-daily reports of rising temperatures and extreme weather events, the climate change conversation is a hard one to ignore. We worry about its effect on our planet and its delicate ecosystems. But what about its impact on us? How does it affect our daily lives? Perhaps more importantly, how might it affect our health?

Environmental Changes

To understand the impact of climate change on public health, we first have to look at how it affects the environment.

  • Global warming, a steady rise in global temperature, has led to droughts, the expansion of existing deserts, increased occurrences of forest fires, water-source limitations, and an increase in the range of pests and disease-bearing insects.
  • Increased precipitation in certain regions can lead to flooding, contamination of water sources, and rising sea levels.
  • Severe storms and other natural disasters are growing in frequency and strength, putting numerous people and property under extreme danger and leading to billions of dollars in damages.
  • Steady deforestation has led to an increase in air pollution and airborne molds and pollen. It also causes soil erosion and fosters increased carbon dioxide levels, another main culprit behind many climate-related problems.

Climate Change and Your Health

In September 2015, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) released a report detailing some of the negative impacts of global climate change on health. Those include:

  • The degradation of air quality, which has caused a rise in asthma, allergies, and respiratory diseases, particularly in densely populated areas;
  • Intense heat, which affects those who suffer from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases and can lead to stress on other preexisting health problems;
  • Water contamination, especially in developing countries, which can lead to the spread of disease and infection;
  • Changing weather patterns that negatively impact agriculture, causing malnutrition, starvation, and even hunger-driven violence; and
  • Natural disasters that can destroy homes and cause mental disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder, severe injury, and death.

The Future

We can still have an impact on the future of our planet and humankind if we act immediately. At the very least, we should start by taking pains to halt the rise in temperature that is causing these negative effects, giving us precious time to figure out how to reverse the damage.

However, these changes need to start happening now. That's why sustainability efforts and climate-change initiatives are so important. Dignity Health is taking responsibility by supporting climate-change policies, including limiting its association with coal-based industries. With any luck, other organizations will follow suit, and the grim future painted for us today will be replaced by a healthy world once more.

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