Academic journal article Journal of Nursing Scholarship

Climate Change–Related Water Disasters’ Impact on Population Health

Academic journal article Journal of Nursing Scholarship

Climate Change–Related Water Disasters’ Impact on Population Health

Article excerpt

Widespread scientific consensus exists that the world's climate is changing (Crimmins et al., 2016; Portier et al., 2010; Woodward et al., 2014), and as a direct result of climate change, water-related disaster events are increasing in frequency and intensity. Over the past half century, the persistent burning of fossil fuels has released sufficient quantities of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to trap additional heat in the lower atmosphere. Rising greenhouse gas concentrations have resulted in the earth becoming progressively warmer each decade (World Health Organization, 2017). As a result, there have been more variable hydrologic events (glaciers melting, heavy precipitation, general flooding, flash flooding, and coastal floods) and meterologic events such as cyclones, hurricanes, tropical storms, and sea level rise. Each of these events has the potential to negatively affect the health of populations across the globe. While climate change is a public health issue, the effects of climate change will vary across geographic regions and populations (Crimmins et al., 2016). Some degree of climate change is unavoidable, and we must adapt to its associated health effects; however, aggressive mitigation actions can significantly blunt the worst of the expected exposures (Interagency Working Group on Climate Change and Health, 2016). The scientific evidence to support climate change is strong, yet contentious international political debate persists regarding what actions to take in response. Nurses represent the largest global healthcare resource and, as such, are ideally suited to contribute to disaster preparedness efforts for climate change-related water disasters (CCRWDs), build sustainable communities, advocate for more robust environmental health policy, and work towards mitigating exposure to environmental toxins that may threaten human health.

Public health officials, clinicians, and policymakers require a substantive body of evidence on which to base interventions and disaster response initiatives if they wish to effectively plan, prepare for, and mitigate the impact of cyclones, floods, hurricanes, and sea level rise on global populations. The purpose of this study was to conduct a systematic review of the literature concerning CCRWDs. Ultimately, this evidence will be useful to inform national and international environmental disaster policy in this area.


Search Strategy

In order to capture the broad scope of variables impacting public health as a result of CCRWDs, a systematic review of the literature was conducted using a modified Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) approach (PRISMA, 2015). This framework provides for a guided search and review method with prespecified inclusion and exclusion criteria, definition of terms, and documentation of selection decisions, as recommended by Kastner et al. (2012) and Moher, Liberati, Telzlaff, Altman, and the PRIMSA Group (2009). A systematic review is a review of a clearly formulated question that uses systematic and explicit methods to identify, select, and critically appraise relevant research, and to collect and analyze data from the studies that are included in the review. Statistical methods (meta-analysis) may or may not be used to analyze and summarize the results of the included studies (Moher et al., 2009).

Our research team collaborated with an experienced medical research librarian to design a rigorous protocol that would identify all peer-reviewed published literature on the public health impact of CCRWDs as outlined in Table 1. Databases searched included PubMed, the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), Embase, Scopus, and Web of Science in order to provide information from a variety of disciplines. Climate change as a topic was searched by using the terms climate change, climatic processes, El Niño-Southern Oscillation, and global warming. Disaster as a topic was searched using the terms disaster, natural disasters, cyclone, hurricane, and floods. …

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