Climate Change: A Public Health Crisis

by Teddie Potter, PhD, RV, FAAN

“We’re committed to making sure the nation knows about the effects of climate change on health. If anyone doesn’t think this is a severe problem, they are fooling themselves.”
—Georges Benjamin, Executive Director American Public Health Association, in The Washington Post

 We have all heard about melting polar ice and warming global temperatures but we also need to know how climate change impacts our health and the health of our families so we can protect those who are vulnerable and at greatest risk.

Climate change impacts health in eight significant ways (Center for Disease Control):

  • Extreme heat: Heat related illness and death and cardiovascular failure
  • Severe weather: Injuries, fatalities, and mental health impacts
  • Air pollution: Asthma and cardiovascular disease
  • Vector-borne diseases: For example, encephalitis, Lyme disease, West Nile virus
  • Increasing allergens: Respiratory allergies, asthma
  • Water quality impacts: For example, cholera, cryptosporidiosis, harmful algal blooms
  • Water and food supply impacts: Malnutrition and diarrheal disease
  • Environmental Degradation: Forced migration, civil conflict, mental health impacts

What can we do? We can be informed and aware that these health impacts are already being felt in Minnesota. We can take precautions to avoid ice-related injuries; we can avoid prolonged outdoor time on days with high heat indices or high pollen counts; we can be vigilant for deer ticks when we are camping or hiking; and we can support programs such as Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light and ISAIAH that are working diligently to protect the health of our environment.