Tackling the health effects of climate change

Experts predict potentially dire health effects from climate change and say that negative effects are already occurring. But health systems and health professionals can play a key role in protecting the public, according to experts from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

In an opinion article published online March 1, 2017, in the New England Journal of Medicine, David Hunter, Vincent L. Gregory Professor in Cancer Prevention, Ashish Jha, K.T. Li Professor of International Health and director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, and Howard Frumkin of the University of Washington outlined some of the worrisome scenarios posed by climate change—more heat waves, higher ozone levels, larger and longer forest fires, more severe storms, upticks in vector-borne diseases, and food shortages—all of which could lead to severe health impacts.

Health care systems can help by anticipating and preparing for climate-related health threats and by reducing their own greenhouse-gas emissions, the authors wrote.

Health professionals—trusted communicators about health risks and their management—can help, too. They can explain the risks of climate change to their patients and the public, as well as the benefits of trying to mitigate and adapt to it.

“As opinion leaders, we can remind our communities that climate change is verified by strong science, is already harming health, and is solvable if we act soon,” the authors wrote. “And we can emphasize the good news that tackling climate change will benefit not only the health of the planet but also the health of its peoples.”

Read the New England Journal of Medicine article: Preventive Medicine for the Planet and Its Peoples

Learn more

The impact of climate change on health (Harvard Chan School news)