March 30, 2017

Climate change already a major health problem

New America Media - A coalition of medical organizations representing over half of American physicians has launched a campaign to alert policymakers and the public to the dangers climate change presents to public health.

“Doctors in every part of our country see that climate change is making Americans sicker,” says Dr. Mona Sarfaty in a statement.

Safarty is director of a new coalition of doctors, called the Medical Society Consortium on Climate & Health, and a professor at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. The Consortium on Climate and Health’s new report, which is based on peer-reviewed reports, outlines the myriad ways climate is already worsening health, including causing asthma and other respiratory diseases.

The increased spread of insect-borne diseases such as the Zika virus and Lyme disease more commonly found in the tropics is another risk, the report says.

Children are among the most vulnerable to the health impacts of climate change, she says, partly because their respiratory rate is faster than that of adults, making them susceptible to poor air quality. Increased risks for infectious disease and extreme weather can be even more damaging when they happen in the critical developmental years.

“The WHO (World Health Organization) estimates that 80 percent of the health burdens of climate change will fall on children under [age] five,” Dr. Bole says.

Asthma tops the list of climate health woes in many communities already suffering in disproportionate rates, such as in Cleveland where one in every five African American child has asthma. Many of these children are Dr. Bole’s patients, and in caring for them she says she is already observing the impacts of climate change: increased heat, a longer allergy season, and worsening air quality. High rates of poverty are an additional burden on these kids’ health, she says.

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