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Key Notes on Climate Change and Global Health

CLIMATE change is a global phenomenon with widespread impacts on health. It exacerbates existing health inequities and presents new challenges to global health systems. The following are key areas where climate change affects global health: -

(1) Direct Health Impacts

(a) Heat-Related Illnesses

i. Increased Mortality: Rising temperatures contribute to higher mortality rates, especially among vulnerable populations such as the elderly, children, and those with pre-existing health conditions.

ii. Heat Stress: Higher temperatures increase the risk of heat-related illnesses, including heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

(b) Extreme Weather Events

i. Natural Disaster: More frequent and severe hurricanes, floods, and wildfires result in physical injuries, deaths, and displacement.

ii. Mental Health: The trauma and stress from experiencing and surviving natural disasters can lead to long-term mental health issues, including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression.

(2) Indirect Health Impacts

(a) Air Quality Deterioration

i. Respiratory Conditions: Increased air pollution and allergens due to climate change can worsen asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), and other respiratory diseases.

ii. Cardiovascular diseases: Poor air quality is also linked to an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.

(b) Vector-Borne Diseases

i. Expanded Range of Vectors: Warmer temperatures and changing precipitation patterns expand the habitats of disease-carrying vectors like mosquitoes and ticks. This leads to a higher incidence of diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, and Zika virus disease.

ii. New Disease Outbreak: Areas Changing climates can introduce new vector-borne diseases to previously unaffected.

(c) Food and Water Security

i. Malnutrition: Climate change affects crop yields and food production, leading to food insecurity and malnutrition, particularly in low-income countries.

ii. Waterborne Diseases: Changes in water temperature and quality can increase the prevalence of diseases like cholera, diarrhoea, and other gastrointestinal infections.

(d) Social and Economic Disruption

i. Migration: Climate-induced displacement can lead to overcrowded and unsanitary living conditions, increasing the spread of infectious diseases.

ii. Economic Impact: Climate change can delay economic development, reduce the resources available for health care, and increase poverty, which exacerbates health disparities.

Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies

(1) Strengthening Health System

(a)Resilient Infrastructure: Building healthcare facilities that can withstand extreme weather events and ensuring continuous operation during disasters.

(b)Surveillance System: Developing a robust system to monitor and respond to climate-sensitive health risks.

(2) Reducing Emission

(a)Clear Energy Transition: Moving towards renewable energy sources to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality.

(b)Sustainable Practices: Encouraging sustainable agriculture, transport, and industrial practices to reduce environmental impact.

(3) Community Engagement and Education

(a)Awareness Campaigns: Educating communities about the health impacts of climate change and promoting behaviours that reduce health risks.

(b)Local Resilience Building: Empowering communities to implement local solutions tailored to their specific climate-related health risks.

Global Health Initiatives

International Collaboration

  • Global Health Organizations: International Organizations like the WHO, UNICEF, and the UN are working on initiatives to combat the health impacts of climate change through research, funding, and policy advocacy.
  • Cross-Border Co-operation: Countries must work together to address transboundary health issues exacerbated by climate change, such as pandemics and pollution.
  • Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
  • SDG-3 (Good health and Well-being): Ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages.
  • SDG-13 (Climate Action): Taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.

In addition, climate change is a critical global health issue that requires coordinated action on multiple aspects. By addressing both the direct and indirect health impacts of climate change through mitigation and adaptation strategies, global health can be protected and improved for current and future generations.