The impact of climate change on human health is visible around the globe. Rising temperatures make air pollution worse, intensifying respiratory illnesses. Drought and then famine result from changing weather patterns, as do increasing rains that create the breeding grounds for disease and pandemics.
The importance of understanding, communicating and addressing the connection between climate change and health was the focus of a day-long Climate and Health Meeting co-sponsored by the Harvard Global Health Institute (HGHI) and conducted at the Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia on February 16, 2017. The meeting brought together academics and public officials, members of public health professions, the climate community, and others to focus on the problems and solutions.
A three-day meeting on climate change and public health had been scheduled in Atlanta by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That meeting was cancelled in anticipation of opposition to the meeting from the Trump Administration. HGHI, with former Vice President Al Gore and his Climate Reality Project, worked to revive the meeting in partnership with the American Public Health Association (APHA), Dr. Howard Frumkin, former director of the CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health and others. The goal was to preserve the focus of the conference originally planned by the CDC, not replace it, providing a substantive working session on these critical issues.
“Today we face a challenging political climate, but climate shouldn’t be a political issue. Health professionals urgently need the very best science in order to protect the public, and climate science has increasingly critical implications for their day-to-day work. With more and more hot days, which exacerbate the proliferation of the Zika virus and other public health threats, we cannot afford to waste any time,” Gore said in announcing the meeting.
Ashish Jha, MD, a physician and Director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, spoke at the meeting.
“Health is the human face of climate change. That’s what Michelle Williams, Dean of Harvard’s Chan School of Public Health, likes to say, and she’s right,” Dr. Jha said in Atlanta. “This is not just about temperature rises and sea level changes. It is about stopping the spread of disease, fighting hunger and starvation. It is about creating a world where kids not only make it past age 5 but they grow into healthy adults and they thrive."
You can watch the meeting here.