A report released by a US federal working group highlights 11 key categories of diseases and other health consequences that are occurring or will occur due to climate change. The report, A Human Health Perspective on Climate Change, provides a starting point for coordination of federal research to better understand climate’s impact on human health.
The recommendations of the working group include research to identify who will be most vulnerable, and what efforts will be most beneficial.
The white paper highlights the science on the human health consequences of climate change on:
- Asthma, respiratory allergies, and airway diseases;
- Cardiovascular disease and stroke;
- Foodborne diseases and nutrition;
- Heat-related morbidity and mortality;
- Human developmental effects;
- Mental health and stress-related disorders;
- Neurological diseases and disorders;
- Waterborne diseases;
- Weather-related morbidity and mortality; and
- Vectorborne and zoonotic diseases (like malaria, which can be transmitted from animals to humans).
The report also examines a number of cross-cutting issues for federal research in this area, including susceptible, vulnerable, and displaced populations; public health and health care infrastructure; capacities and skills needed; and communication and education efforts.
There is no doubt that we have the capacity to find ways to avoid many of the worst health effects of climate change, and indeed, given the universality and potential magnitude of such effects, we have an ethical imperative to do so. The research needs described in this document should guide the process, helping us to develop the proper tools and make informed choices that will ultimately result in better health and better lives for the citizens of the United States and of the world.
—Interagency Working Group on Climate Change and Health
The ad hoc Interagency Working Group on Climate Change and Health was formed following a 2009 Institute of Medicine Roundtable on Environmental Health Sciences, Research, and Medicine meeting on climate change. At the gathering, leaders from NIEHS, the US Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recognized that the scientific discussion around climate change needed to be reframed to emphasize the human health impacts and research needs to address them.
Led by Christopher Portier, Ph.D., from NIEHS, membership of the working group also includes representatives from the National Institutes of Health Fogarty International Center, the US Department of Agriculture, the US Department of State, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and the US Department of Health and Human Services, with support and input from the US Global Change Research Program and others.