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US Interagency Group Identifies Research Needs to Study Climate Change and Human Health Impacts

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.

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Climate change has direct impact on five aspects of the human environment (red lines, purple circles) that in turn impact additional environmental factors. These environmental changes then alter 12 separate aspects of human health (tan boxers). Source: NIH. Click to enlarge.

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:

  1. Asthma, respiratory allergies, and airway diseases;
  2. Cancer;
  3. Cardiovascular disease and stroke;
  4. Foodborne diseases and nutrition;
  5. Heat-related morbidity and mortality;
  6. Human developmental effects;
  7. Mental health and stress-related disorders;
  8. Neurological diseases and disorders;
  9. Waterborne diseases;
  10. Weather-related morbidity and mortality; and
  11. 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.

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Comments

HarveyD

Other negative human health factors such as air pollution, water pollution, ground pollution, process food, junk food, prescribed drugs, over the counter drugs, illegal drugs, etc should be investigated. The results could be real eye openers and demonstrate why so many have difficult to treat diseases. Over fed, over medicated people are not that healthy.

Will S

This is much needed. Hopefully, other aspects, such as long term partial dehydration effects will be looked at as well, as access to clean fresh water continues to decline for large percentages of the population.

HarveyD

Coal industries executives are playing the very same game as were the Tobacco industries executives 30 years ago. The time may have arrived to take stronger legal actions against those deceitful and harmful activities.

More miners and coal users have died than defective Toyota users.

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