The Impacts of Climate Change Are at Our Doorstep

By Radke, Vince | Journal of Environmental Health, November 2018 | Go to article overview

The Impacts of Climate Change Are at Our Doorstep


Radke, Vince, Journal of Environmental Health


Climate change refers to "any significant change in measures of climate (such as temperature or precipitation) lasting for an extended period (decades or longer)" (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2016, p. 3).

In 1997, some 20 years ago, the National Environmental Health Agency (NEHA) adopted a climate change position paper. In 2017, NEHA adopted an updated climate change policy statement. In between those years, additional research and evidence have been documented that indicate climate change is continuing to have an impact on our lives. I suggest we all read the NEHA policy statement on climate change (see references for the link).

Climate change is impacting all aspects of our environmental health work--air, water, vector control, food, safety, and the built environment. The communities where we work and live are being impacted. We must address this impact now. We can address this impact with risk assessment, monitoring, planning, education, and adaptation. If you have not started to address this impact of climate change in your community, you must start now.

There are several resources available to us. The Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change has proposed 10 policy recommendations that can aid us, as environmental health professionals, to help our communities make changes to mitigate some of the impacts of climate change (Watts et al., 2015). The National Association of County and City Health Officials (2014) has produced a report that summarizes the results from local health department directors on the existence, causes, and dangers of climate change. The report also discusses the prioritization and capacity to assess and address the impacts of climate change. An additional resource is the Building Resilience Against Climate Effects (BRACE) framework (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015). The framework's five-step process anticipates impacts, assesses associated health vulnerabilities, and creates adaptive capacity to reduce exposures.

As environmental health professionals, we cannot assess and address the impacts of climate change by ourselves. This effort will take our entire communities, as well as other levels of government, nongovernmental organizations, policy makers, and the private sector. As environmental health professionals, part of our effort with other partners will be to show both the health and economic burden of climate change. Baseline data on exposure and disease, if not available, will need to be obtained to quantify the impacts of climate change. Environmental health surveillance activities will need to be undertaken to monitor changes over time. Those populations already affected by socioeconomic inequities will be disproportionately burdened by the impacts of climate change. Efforts must be made to monitor and develop appropriate measures for these communities.

In September 2016, NEHA participated in a national online survey sponsored by ecoAmerica and Climate for Health to determine member attitudes and behaviors on climate change. …

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