Op-ed: Preventing disease by addressing climate change, understanding immunity

To reduce the threat of major global diseases such as COVID-19, governments must make greater investments in climate-change solutions and in understanding how the human immune system works, says Wayne Koff, adjunct professor of epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Climate change–driven weather extremes have led to human migration that has brought people into closer contact with animals harboring dangerous pathogens, according to an April 22, 2021, opinion piece in STAT co-authored by Koff. Climate change has also led to increased air pollution from wildfires, death and malnutrition from extreme heat, and water-borne illnesses associated with more frequent and intense hurricanes.

While vaccines can help bring many infectious diseases under control, they are usually less effective in vulnerable populations such as the elderly and newborns, the authors wrote. That’s why it’s crucial to invest in research on how to create effective immunity for all, they argued. “The human immune system … holds the keys to prevention and control of infectious and non-communicable diseases,” they wrote.

Read the STAT op-ed: Climate change and human immunity: Invest now or pay substantially more later