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How Climate Change Impacts Public Health

May 31, 2019

Climate change is a growing public health and safety threat in ways that many never would have assumed. Beyond community health that doctors and hospitals work to improve, there are environmental elements that can directly impact everyone.

Global warming, emissions, carbon footprints, energy sources; all of these elements directly impacting our communities. Overall, climate change can undermine public health through natural disasters, environmental shifts, and ecosystem disturbances. When basic resources (air, water, and food) are threatened by climate change fallout, our healthcare system will increasingly feel the strain.

Research, prevention, and education are a few ways that healthcare experts can help our community overcome the public health issues that are attached to climate change.

Identifying current strains on the environment, and their future impact, is a crucial first step.


Food scarcity and malnutrition.

By the year 2050 the global population is expected to hit nearly 10 billion. As climate change, soil decomposition, and over-urbanization continue to reduce access to quality land, food supplies will be in increasingly greater demand.

Climate change will directly impact the growth patterns of the crops we need to survive. Elevated carbon dioxide levels actually have a direct impact on the soil, and therefore the growth of crops.

Similarly, shifts in the environment can increase global warming, which changes weather patterns. More warm or cold weather will have an impact on growing seasons, again changing the future of food and crops.

Rising ocean temperatures.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports that the average sea surface temperature around the world has increased by about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit per decade over the past 100 years. Rising ocean temperatures impact public health in many ways.

Rising ocean temperatures spread disease in marine life, decreasing their populations and having a direct impact on the ocean ecosystem. Food that we rely on from oceans can shift, impacting the health of animals and humans alike.



Climate change increases the threat of drought worldwide, including in many parts of the U.S. In the southwest, increasing heat will alter patterns of rainfall and decrease snowpack, which will lead to drought-like conditions.

These drought conditions interfere with farming, add to carbon emissions and energy waste as people run electricity and introduce chemicals into the air to combat heat, and directly contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.


Spread of vector borne illnesses.

Rising climate temperatures are anticipated to increase the proliferation of vector borne illnesses. Vector borne illnesses are spread by mosquitoes, fleas, ticks, and other animals that suck blood from humans. These illnesses are a health crisis, as some of them are deadly.

Mosquitoes spreading malaria.

Rising global temperatures will continue to offer the ideal breeding conditions (tropical, wet, humid) for Anopheles mosquitoes, known to be transmitters of diseases such as malaria and dengue. Malaria induces fever and flu-like symptoms in those it infects. While most adults infected with malaria recover, it can cause death in children, the elderly, and the infirm.

Ticks spreading Lyme disease.

Lyme disease is known for symptoms including severe headaches, fatigue, fever, chills, and muscle/joint aches. If left untreated, it can spread to other parts of the body after infection, causing long-term arthritis and nervous system problems. With climate temperatures on the rise, blood-sucking ticks are also thriving in more and more areas, exposing increasing numbers of humans to Lyme disease.

Additional training for healthcare professionals.

Healthcare industry leaders will need to prepare medical professionals to look more diligently for the spread of these vector borne illnesses. Proper education, continued research, and prevention techniques can help health care professionals be prepared to fight these diseases.

People of the community can learn about the health factors of vector borne illnesses and do their best to stop the spread.

Training for natural disasters.

Providing effective healthcare services in times of crisis requires a broad-horizon look at various facets of disaster management. Climate change is increasing the numbers of natural disasters and public health impacts are right behind, in the wake of this climate crisis.

Contaminated water sources.

Contaminated water and poor sanitation are a global issue, directly resulting in transmitting diseases like diarrhea, dysentery, typhoid, polio, cholera, and hepatitis A. These health problems can wipe out communities and spread quickly to become a global problem.

Public health experts work to maintain ample clean water sources around the world as they try and fight for better health.


Training for healthcare professionals.

Public health staff will need continued core training to stay prepared as these climate-driven natural disasters increase throughout the U.S. and around the world.

Up and coming public health professionals need to be prepared for the reality that climate shifts will increasingly impact the health of people around the world. As they continually are ready with core training, increased health needs will be able to be met.

Public health professionals are vital for continued health success, especially as the climate around us changes. The world will need more trained public health professionals to meet the upcoming demands as health crises and climate crises continue to impact our environment, and lives.


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